Typically Tardy Critic focuses on movies that are 10 years old, but for a prestigious film such as this, I’m making an exception on the 20th anniversary.
The Lion King is arguably one of the best loved Disney films of all time and with good reason.
It’s hard to disassociate a movie like The Lion King from the childhood nostalgia that many people may feel towards the film, having seen it first as a child. But then again, you shouldn’t have to.
The ultimate result for most films it to entertain and that is one thing that The Lion King does very well. The songs found throughout the film are fun, catchy, and almost as classic as the film itself. The dialogue is snappy, and to be honest, its unlike many of the more recent Disney films I have seen. There is a lot of word play and some of the humor is subtle and quick. I don’t know how much of this I picked up on as a child, but I definitely caught a lot on my most recent watch-through.
At 88 minutes long, the movie doesn’t dawdle and the quick pacing keeps things moving without feeling rushed. The plot is succinct without any glaring plot holes. I think one of my favorite scenes was showing Simba grow up during the “hakuna matata” song, so simple and yet so elegant.
In 1994, I was too young to know who “Mr. Bean” was or even be familiar with the voice of James Earl Jones. In 2014, it’s a pleasure to hear the familiar voices acting out the long forgotten plot of this Disney masterpiece.
The storyline is fairly straight forward. The king lion has a brother, Scar, who is immediately introduced as the evil villain in the first scene. Scar is irritated that he isn’t king and annoyed that the king now has a son who is next in line for the throne. So he does what all evil brothers do and attempts to murder his brother and young nephew. He succeeds in fratricide, but not before the king is able to save his son. Scar finds young Simba and convinces him that he is responsible for his father’s death. In an odd display of mercy, Scar tells Simba to run before telling the hyenas to kill him. (Because let’s make the poor cub feel terrible while he dies.)
Simba escapes from the comedic hyena trio and runs away from home, forever feeling guilty for something he didn’t do. That is, until his childhood friend Nala finds him. Nala unsuccessfully tries to convince Simba to go home and challenge Scar for the throne, but the guilty young hero can’t bear the thought. That is, until a wise old baboon knocks a little sense into him. With new resolve Simba heads home to face Scar and in the end, finally finds out the truth behind the lies of his childhood.
The story is appealing at a few different levels. It’s a quick simple story full of music and humor, yet it also touches on some of life’s deeper questions, how do we deal with the problems of our past? How do we let pain define and effect us? Oddly, these anthropomorphized creatures are easy to relate to.
If you haven’t watched The Lion King recently, it’s certainly worth viewing again. The movie is currently in the Disney Vault, so finding a reasonably priced copy on DVD might make for a hunt. Or you can take the old fashion route, and dust off your old VCR, pray it won’t eat your tape, and pop in a good old VHS. (I got my copy of The Lion King for 25-cents at a thrift store :)