The Lion King

Critics Consensus

While it can take pride in its visual achievements,The Lion King is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved--though for some fans that may just be enough.



Total Count: 390


Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 76,195
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Movie Info

From Disney Live Action, director Jon Favreau's all-new "The Lion King" journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub's arrival. Scar, Mufasa's brother-and former heir to the throne-has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba's exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.


News & Interviews for The Lion King

Critic Reviews for The Lion King

All Critics (390) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (206) | Rotten (184)

  • The Lion King captures just enough of the original's warmhearted excitement -- and introduces enough new delights -- to feel like more than a cynical Disney money grab.

    Sep 9, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Even if you somehow made it into the new Lion King without knowing its origins, you might start to wonder if there was another version of it that made more sense...

    Jul 30, 2019 | Full Review…

    Sam Adams

    Top Critic
  • Despite the superstar talent of the cast and the stunning presentation, it misses some of the heart that placed the original securely in the pop culture canon.

    Jul 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Rarely has brand recognition soared to such fetishistic heights, and I regret to inform you that, aside from the updating of the vocal cast, the most blatant discrepancy between the old and the new is a very slight increase in the comedy of flatulence.

    Jul 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • By this point, Disney's do-overs feel a lot like their cash-grabby, inspiration-free '90s direct-to-video sequels, only with vastly better production values.

    Jul 19, 2019 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • Where the animated original had an endearingly cheery anthropomorphism, with wide eyes and cute expressions, this lacks that. You're marveling at the beauty of the animals, but it just doesn't work with the material.

    Jul 18, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Lion King

  • Aug 08, 2019
    Well, the original was better. It's fine, and ultimately impressive. Really, there is a lot to admire about the movie, but still it can't escape the shadow of the original. The weird thing is despite being longer a lot of times it feels like it's rushing through the beats of the original. Most notably, Mufasa's death scene (spoiler's I guess) feels weirdly rushed. I remember in the original there was time dwelling on Simba looking at the body and begging for Mufasa to get up. Here, he just kinda looks at it, sniffles a bit, and the scene moves on. Look I'm not saying it needs to be a shot for shot remake, but if you are going to go through the effort of doing the exact same scenes, either do them better, or do them at least as good, don't just rush through them to check off a box. That's this films biggest flaw, and it really did bother me. It lives under the shadow of the original often doing things because "the original did it" without really seeming to have an understanding of why that worked in the original. It was different artists with different visions. However, when it's doing it's own thing, it actually kinda' works. A lots been made of Timon and Pumbaa in this movie, and rightfully so, they're one of the few things that is expanded and made to live on their own. They're essentially the same sort of characters, but Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen bring their own personality to them. They were allowed to improvise and give their own spin with new lines and humor. They even have a new philosophy and debate on Hakuna Matata versus Circle of Life that's actually genuinely interesting. I also liked how their home is inhabited by other animals and it shows how Simba became part of that community in his exile. It's expansions like this where the film does its own thing where it really shines. Yes the visuals are nice, but the animals don't show the personality like they did in the animation because Lions can't cry/smile/laugh in real life so what were left with is a really pretty Disney Nature CGI-fest. It's these narrative moments that make the film work. I ultimately give it a moderately positive review because…damnit it's still The Lion King, and yeah there were enough things it did right. But at the end of the day, if I ever want to see The Lion King again, I'm going to watch the original.
    Michael M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 26, 2019
    Though enjoyable, with its breathtaking CGI and nostalgic moments, I'm afraid it was pointless to make, since it's the perfect example of a shot-to-shot remake, copying exactly what the much superior original did. In short: I loved it, but could've been better.
    Serge E Super Reviewer
  • Jul 24, 2019
    Ever since the run-up of Disney's live-action remakes, I've been predicting what would happen with the newer films, and it all seems to be coming true. The problem with Disney remaking hit animated movies from the 80s and 90s is that there hasn't been enough distance. The immediate audience is going to demand their nostalgia exactly as they remember it, and they will not be happy with anything less. It's not like a scenario where the original movies could be improved upon, like 2016's beautifully tender Pete's Dragon. What these live-action remakes offer is an uglier, inferior version of an animated classic. There's no reason for most of them to exist. They won't be different; they won't be interesting. It's a sludgy, auto-tuned cash grab that shows no end in sight. Before this year, I did not expect Tim Burton's Dumbo to be the best of the three 2019 Disney live-action remakes, but here we are. I guess the concept of Disney eating its own tail with these live-action remakes is symbolic of the studio "circle of life," and the perfect segue way to The Lion King, a remake missing the wonder and magic of the 1994 original. King Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones again) rules over an African prairie and preparing his young son Simba (JD Mcrary and Donald Glover as an adult) for his eventual rule. Mufasa's scornful brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) conspires to have Mufasa killed and Simba banished. Blaming himself for his father's death, Simba runs away and finds kinship with a meerkat named Timon (Billy Eichner) and a warthog named Pumba (Seth Rogen). They preach a carefree life of "no worries." This new life is interrupted when Nala (Beyoncé Knowles), Simba's childhood friend, returns seeking help to remove Scar from the throne. Simba must confront his fate and treacherous uncle and bring balance back to his ailing homeland. The biggest appeal of director Jon Favreau's Lion King remake is the stunning special effects. It's been ten years since James Cameron brought to life a photo realistic alien world that dazzled audiences, and the advances have only made the professional fakery more startling. This movie was completely "filmed" inside a computer. Every single shot, every blade of grass, every pebble, every photo realistic morsel onscreen is the result of digital wizards. In 2016's The Jungle Book, there were still some physical elements filmed, chief among them the human boy, but now it's all done away. The remake looks like an HD nature documentary. One could question the use of the technology, $250 million to recreate what ordinary cameras on location could achieve, but I'll choose to congratulate Disney and Favreau on the remarkable technical achievement. The Jungle Book was a big leap forward and The Lion King is that next step. However, the special effects are ultimately the only selling point. Come see how real it all looks, kids. The rest of the remake left me feeling unmoved and occasionally perplexed. This is an almost exact shot-for-shot recreation of the original movie. It made me think of Gus van Sant's 1998 Psycho remake and why anyone would go to this much trouble to make a copy. You'll feel a tingle of recognition with different shots and scenes and then that feeling will transition to disappointment and lastly resignation. It's the same, just not as good. So what exactly is different with the live-action Lion King of 2019? Very very little. Despite totaling a half hour more movie, it really only has one added incidental Beyoncé song, a small character beat where Timon and Pumba explain their philosophy on more fatalistic terms, an explanation how Nala left the pride lands, and more poop and fart jokes. The filmmakers have added realism in appearance but also added more scatological humor, which seems like an odd combination. There is a literal plot point attached to giraffe poop. Instead of a whispery feather, petal, whatever finding its way to the baboon Rafiki to let him know Simba is still alive, now we watch the life of a tuft of fur as it travels from creature to creature, at one point being consumed on a leaf by a giraffe. The next image is a ball of poop being rolled by a beetle with our tell-tale tuft of lion fur. I guess it's more emblematic of the whole "circle of life" theme, but I didn't think Disney was going to literalize the poop aspect. The new Beyoncé song is fairly bland and unmemorable. That's it, dear reader. Lion King 2019 is 95 percent identical to Lion King 1994 in plot, and yet the original writers do not earn a screenwriting credit thanks to arcane animation writing guild rules, and that is madness. It's their story, it's their characters, and it's almost entirely their dialogue, and to not have their names rightfully credited where they belong is wrong. There are some definite drawbacks to that photo realism as well. When lions and other animals are photo realistic, they have facial structures that don't exactly emote, so it looks like all the animals often just have their jaws wired shut. You'll listen to the vocal actors go through a range of emotions and watch these plain, unmoved faces that you start to wonder if maybe all of the dialogue should have just been voice over. As soon as I saw Mufasa speaking, I was immediately shaken by the image and longed for the expression of the animation. I never got over it and it made me feel removed from the film, even more so. This is the trade off of realism; animals don't actually speak, you know. Another trade off is that the film becomes much more intense especially for younger kids. I would not recommend parents take the littlelest ones to this movie because now, instead of watching a traditionally animated band of characters brawl, you're watching realistic lions and hyenas scrape, claw, and hurl one another to their deaths. If kids were traumatized by parts of the original movie, I can only imagine the nightmares that await. Strangely, the photo realism also mitigates the film's sense of scope and impact. The stampede sequence feels far less dangerous because the camera doesn't pull back that far, showing a massive herd from a distance. Subsequently the sequence loses some of its urgency. Then there's also simply identifying who may be who when those fights come, because you're trying to pick out realistic animals instead of distinct creatures with specific character designs. The aspects you enjoyed with the 1994 Lion King will still be enjoyable, even if they suffer in direct comparison. Hans Zimmer's score is still magnificent. The songs are still catchy, though some of the arrangements are a bit under-cooked, like the speak-sung "Be Prepared." The song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" occurs absurdly early in the Simbla/Nala reunion and takes place in the sunny afternoon. So much for "tonight" (the famous Nala "bedroom eyes" moment is also quite diminished from a real lion's face). The jokes are still funny because they were funny the first time. The things that worked the first time will still work to some degree, even if the presentation leaves something to desire. Several of the vocal artists just sound flat, especially Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) who comes across so blasé. I missed the casual menace of Jeremy Irons. The best vocal performances belong to Eichner (Difficult People) and Rogen (Long Shot), maybe because they're already broad personalities, or maybe because they felt the most comfortable to occasionally steer away from the original script, finding small room to roam. Florence Kasumba (Black Panther) also delivers a snarling and effective performance as one of the hyena leaders, Shenzi. They're the only vocal performances that fare well in competition. I need to defend the art of animated films. There is nothing wrong with animated films simply because they are animated. A live-action version is not better simply because it's more "real." I hear this same argument when it comes to making a live-action anime. Animation is a wonderful medium and has a magic all its own that often live-action cannot emulate. The animated Lion King is beautiful with bold colors, strong visual compositions, and emotive characters with specific designs. The live-action Lion King is missing much of that, at least when it's not recreating exact shots from its predecessor. I don't know who this movie is going to appeal to. Parents will be better off just playing the original for their children at home. Die-hard fans of The Lion King might enjoy seeing their favorite story told with plenty of cutting-edge special effects magic. I would have been happier had the filmmakers attempted something like Julie Taymor's transformative and ground-breaking Broadway show. I would have been happier had they just recorded the Broadway show. The new Lion King is a lesser version of the 1994 movie, plain and simple, and if that's enough for you, then have at it. For me, these Disney live-action remakes are making me feel as dead in the eyes as a photo realistic lion. Nate's Grade: C
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Jul 23, 2019
    GAY PRIDE – My Review of THE LION KING (3 ? Stars) Ready for a hot take? I don't always love animated films. Give me the crappy cut-out look of South Park or the gloriously fluid old school Looney Tunes shorts, but otherwise, I sometimes feel like my eyes are bleeding. I don't mean to take anything away from the incredibly talented artisans who have brought so much joy and wonder to the world. It's an eyeball thing. Speaking of which, I also don't like the eyeballs on Disney characters. They're so big and round and sweet. I think I know one person in the world with eyes like that and everyone calls him Aladdin, but it's not really a compliment. Everyone else I know squints and looks dead inside. Maybe I need new friends, or maybe I'm just cranky. All of this is to say that despite the cries that Hollywood operates at a bankrupt creative standstill, that cash grabs represent the new normal filled with remakes and reboots, and that cynical decisions only occur on days that end in "Y", I don't necessarily hate that Disney has decided to churn out "live action" versions of their classic animated films. As much as I loved the original 1994 The Lion King, a CGI, photorealistic update sounded like something I could watch without experiencing a cavalcade of onion tears. I may be alone with this strange affliction of mine, but audiences have sure turned up to see something they've pretty much seen before. I enjoyed director Jon Favreau's update on The Jungle Book, but my expectations were truly low for this one. Using Hamlet as its template, the original film beautifully told the tale of Simba, a young lion who when banished from his pride by his evil Uncle Scar, goes on a journey to discover the importance of standing firm for those you love and realizing your destiny. The Elton John/Tim Rice songs, while sappy as hell at times, could not be more memorable, and who can resist that commanding drum beat and cut to the title card at the very end of "The Circle Of Life"? When that baboon holds Simba up to his adoring animal kingdom, it's one of the greatest cinematic moments of all time. Yet there I sat, expecting the worst. Had I hated the film I was going to title my review, "The Circle Of Lifelessness". I expected a pointless remake with expressionless creatures moving their lips to dialogue, but what I experienced instead, while problematic in terms of pacing issues and one particularly not great vocal performance, truly entertained and delighted me. The Lion King 2.0: No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) not only provided me with a more palatable way to view the same story, but it updated it just enough to make it a little more relevant and a whole lot gayer. Ok, if you're one of those millions of moms who don't have a gay child, or don't know anyone with a gay child, or you're just a closed-minded, out of touch gorgon, you need to calm down. The new film isn't outwardly gay, but much like placing Paul Lynde dead center on Hollywood Squares or Charles Nelson Reilly in the top right tier on Match Game, The Lion King has traded in a perfectly wonderful and gay Nathan Lane as Timon the Meerkat for the truly hilarious, scene-stealing and equally gay Billy Eichner. It's the equivalent of going from Will & Grace's Jack to Bianca Del Rio of Rupaul's Drag Race fame. The quips feel way more 2019 -more biting, nihilistic, dystopian, the world is ending, in a Years And Years is so dead-on kind of way! And yes, even though Timon and his BFF warthog friend Pumbaa (a perfect Seth Rogen) aren't technically a ‘shipworthy couple we would call Timbaa, make no mistake, Timon is a gay homosexual and Eichner gives one of the best vocal performances I've heard in ages. Evidently, he improvised many of his lines, including my favorite as he arrives at a Pride Rock which has been left barren by Scar and his pack of hyenas, "Talk about a fixer-upper. I think you went heavy on the carcass." I think Queer Eye's Bobby Berk should start taking notes! All of this is to say that Eichner elevates what could have been the draggy second act of the film and sends it into the comedy stratosphere. The pacing, at times, does suffer. Without the benefit of jaunty animation, watching animals traversing the savanna gets a little cumbersome, and the facial expressions of the characters don't carry emotions in the same way. I actually preferred the new version. I had no problems deciphering their feelings, and, in fact, I found their edgier looks a better match for our current mood. It's as if the animals, no longer living in a pre-9/11, pre-Trump world, know we humans have messed everything up and they're deadly serious and seriously pissed off. Welcome to The Lion King 2.0: The Larry David Version! As for the performances, Eichner and Rogen aside, we also get a strong turn from John Oliver as Zazu, the flittering hornbill. Chiwetel Ejiofor, while no Jeremy Irons, makes Scar a terrifying Iago, although his famous, "You have no idea" moment doesn't work as well here since the original was a callback to Irons' unforgettable line in his Oscar winning Reversal Of Fortune. James Earl Jones returns as Mufasa, because nobody can ever replace him. Do you hear me, Morgan Freeman? Nobody! Not even you! And you're the Voice of God! Beyonce acquits herself quite well as Nala, as does Shahadi Wright Joseph as the younger version. Young Simba couldn't be more adorable and heart-melting. Try not to go "Awww" when he attempts his first roar. JD MCrary exudes utter cuteness here, especially during his number, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King", but then, unfortunately the movie flatlines when Donald Glover takes over as his grown-up counterpart. He sounds half asleep and fairly bland in the big duet, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" or whenever reciting lines. I'm suspecting it's an actor's choice to internalize the guilt and shame Simba experienced as a toddler and turn into a self-serious, lumbering bore, but it's not enough to sink a film with such fantastic moments as "Hakuna Matata" or the on-the-beat stomping we revel in during "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Technically, the photorealism may resemble a National Geographic special, but with better lip-syncing, yet I did find myself missing the darker qualities of the glowing-eyed hyenas and the elephant graveyard from the original. The wildebeest stampede looks real, which somehow isn't half as scary as a hand-drawn interpretation. We get more daylight in the new film, making me yearn for the inky blacks of animation. In either version, however, we enter quasi-religious Aslan territory when Simba speaks to his dead father in the clouds. That kind of corniness doesn't quite land the way it did in the early 90s. Despite its flaws, it's a stirring, impressive film. It may not have the most urgent reason for existing in that it pretty much trades in one kind of beauty for another, but Billy Eichner is worth the price of admission alone. Timon may ping on the same old gay best friend character tropes we've known for so long, but it's still a fresh take. He may yell a lot, but he infuses it with kindness and some genuine affection for his big, dopey friend Pumbaa. We could all use a little more Billy in our lives right now.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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