80°F
weather icon Clear
Modified Image Scar
Modified Image Simba

FACE OFF

It’s harder to feel the love as ‘Lion King’ joins Disney’s menagerie of remakes

Life moves in a circle, “The Lion King” tells us — and, increasingly, so does studio movie-making.

Close on the heels of “live action” remakes of “Aladdin” and “Dumbo” and on the precipice of a reborn “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” is back. ’Round and ’round we go. Cue Savannah sunrise. Cue “Naaaants ingonyama bagithi baba!”

The remakes have been a mixed bag offering some combination of modern visual effects, fresh casting and narrative tweaks to catch up more dated material to the times. Don’t count on a new “Song of the South,” but much of the Disney library will soon have been outfitted with digital clothes for the internet era.

It’s easy to greet these remakes both cynically and a little eagerly. In the case

of “The Lion King,” the songs are still good, the Shakespearean story still solid. And, well, Beyoncé is in it.

Yet Jon Favreau’s “Lion King,” so abundant with realistic simulations of the natural world, is curiously lifeless. The most significant overhaul to an otherwise slavishly similar retread is the digital animation rendering of everything, turning the film’s African grasslands and its animal inhabitants into a photo-realistic menagerie. The Disney worlds of cartoon and nature documentary have finally merged.

This image released by Disney shows a scene from “The Lion King.” (Disney via AP)

It’s an impressive leap in visual effects, which includes Favreau, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and VFX chief Rob Legato making use of virtual-reality environments. Some of the computer-generated makeovers are beautiful. Mufasa, the lion king voiced again by James Earl Jones, is wondrously regal, and his mane might be the most majestic blond locks since Robert Redford. The grass stalks of the pride lands shimmer in the African sunlight.

This image released by Disney shows characters, from left, Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones, and young Simba, voiced by JD McCrary, in a scene from “The Lion King.” (Disney via AP)

But it’s a hollow victory. By turning the elastic, dynamic hand-drawn creations of Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s 1994 original into realistic-looking animals, “The Lion King” has greatly narrowed its spectrum of available expressions. Largely lost are the kinds of characterization that can flow from voice actor to animation. (Think of how closely fused Tom Hanks is with Woody in the “Toy Story” movies.) Here, most of the starry voice actors (including Donald Glover as the grown-up lion prince Simba, Beyoncé as the older lioness Nala and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the villainous Scar) feel remote from their characters. And, in many cases, so do we.

This image released by Disney shows characters, from left, Zazu, voiced by John Oliver, and young Simba, voiced by JD McCrary, in a scene from “The Lion King.” (Disney via AP)

It’s worth asking: Just how real do we need our talking animals? Do we need the feathered majordomo Zazu (voiced by John Oliver) to look enough like a red-billed hornbill to win the approval of avid birders? “The Lion King” may well be a pivotal steppingstone toward CGI splendors to come, but for now, it feels like realism has been substituted for enchantment.

That doesn’t stop an army of top craft professionals and an enviable voice cast from doing their best to inject some vitality into “The Lion King.” The familiar songs by Elton John and Tim Rice are back, along with a new tune by Rice and Beyoncé, though this time, the score by Hans Zimmer, with Lebo M., feels more airy and buoyant.

Yet the degree to which this “Lion King” mimics the first is disappointing. (Jeff Nathanson gets a solo writing credit but scene to scene the film hews extremely close to the original.) There’s a sound case to be made that the tale, which has been running on Broadway for more than 20 years, needs little revision.

But the few deviations taken by the filmmakers make you want more. The role of Nala has rightfully been elevated and toughened. The most rope for riffing has been extended to the new Timon and Pumba: Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen. Taking over for Nathan Lane’s meerkat and Ernie Sabella’s warthog, Eichner and Rogen make their own shtick together and, more than anyone else, give “The Lion King” a breath of fresh air, even as they make plenty of fart jokes.

This image released by Disney shows, from left, young Simba, voiced by JD McCrary, Timon, voiced by Billy Eichner, and Pumbaa, voiced by Seth Rogen, in a scene from “The Lion King.” (Disney via AP)

Yet that’s hardly enough to warrant a bland, unimaginative rehash such as this, let alone merit Beyoncé’s imperial presence.

Instead, “The Lion King” is missing something. A purpose, maybe, and a heart.

The life expectancy of Disney classics has begun to feel more like a hamster wheel than a circle of life, and it’s getting harder and harder to feel the love.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Ryan Reaves beer special in the Las Vegas Arts District - VIDEO
James Manos of Able Baker Brewing talks about offering a Golden Knights game-day promotion to celebrate partner Ryan Reaves at its Main Street tasting room. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sourdough Cafe at Arizona Charlie’s in Las Vegas makes horseradish potato chips - VIDEO
Sean Gassaway, room chef at the Sourdough Cafe at Arizona Charlie’s Decatur in Las Vegas, makes horseradish potato chips by heating prepared horseradish to remove some of the moisture, mixing it with kosher salt and further dehydrating it, tossing it with house-made chips and serving it as a monthly special with a bratwurst on a roll, sauerkraut, spicy mustard and a cup of cheese dip. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Central Perk coffee shop opens for business
As part of Saturday’s “Friends” Fan Experience at New York-New York hotel-casino, the artist Nathan Sawaya debuts his life-size, 700-square-foot re-creation of the show’s Central Perk coffee shop that’s constructed entirely out of Lego bricks. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Green Eggs and Ham at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas
Scott Simon, executive chef at Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas, makes a Green Eggs and Ham Flatbread with pistou, smoked mozzarella, tasso ham and eggs. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Lemon Semifreddo Dessert at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Ashley Costa, pastry chef at Vetri Cucina at the Palms in Las Vegas, freezes lemon curd with whipped cream, sandwiches it between polenta-based crumiri cookies, sprinkles it with powdered sugar and drizzles it with argrumato, a lemon olive oil. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Hard Rock Memorabilia Exhibition
The 2,600-square-foot exhibit, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays through Jan. 31, spans eras and genres alike. There are numerous rare and never-before-seen items here, featuring artists from ZZ Top to Nine Inch Nails, Bo Diddley to Britney Spears. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Museum of Selfies coming to Las Vegas - VIDEO
The interactive attraction offers several new selfie opportunities. (Museum of Selfies)
Show of Strength in 'A Choreographers Showcase' - VIDEO
"A Choreographers Showcase" pairs artists from Nevada Ballet Theater and staff from all facets of Cirque du Soleil to design an annual show. (Elizabeth Page Brumleyy/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang talks about what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish - VIDEO
David Chang tells fans what to expect at his new restaurant, Majordomo Meat & Fish, at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pink Lady and Rosey Mary cocktails at Therapy in Las Vegas
Terence Beach, bartender at Therapy restaurant in Las Vegas, makes original pink cocktails to benefit breast cancer research. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Torrijas dessert served at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Las Vegas
Chef Christian Lee of Sugarcane at The Venetian in Las Vegas makes a dessert of torrijas, a Latin French toast, serving it with a caramelized-apple sauce and cinnamon ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
David Chang to sell Tasty Patties at Palazzo in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Chef David Chang has announced a casual concept that will accompany his new Majordomo Meat & Fish at Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Latkes, tzimmes at Market Place Buffet in Las Vegas for Rosh Hashanah
Ryan Swanson, Market Place Buffet room chef at the JW Marriott/Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, makes potato dishes as part of the resort’s Rosh Hashanah buffet. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
How Elphaba In "Wicked" turns green - VIDEO
Mariand Torres gets "painted" by makeup supervisor Joyce McGilberry for her role as Elphaba in "Wicked" at The Smith Center. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chef Sammy D is cooking again in Las Vegas
Sam DeMarco served his first public meal since returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, with a pop-up brunch at 7th & Carson. And the veteran of the First Food & Bar, Rattlecan and Sam’s American has more in store for the downtown spot. The chef, known as Sammy D. to his friends, is taking on a consulting chef role with restaurant that will see some of Sunday’s offerings added to the regular menu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Jennifer Lawrence marries art dealer in Rhode Island

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence got married over the weekend in Rhode Island during a ceremony and reception studded with Hollywood stars.