The Essential Will Smith

 

Gemini Man opens October 11.  The name Will Smith has become synonymous with  sci-fi action films.  Smith has had a long and varied career, even if his genre roles are my favorite.  I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid.  Somewhere I have a Soundtracks cassette of eight-year-old me rapping (or attempting to)  “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  (Once upon a time, kids, we paid to do karaoke and they gave us recordings of it.)  On the eve of Will Smith’s latest movie, let’s take a look at his most essential performances.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith’s first significant acting job was starring in this long-running sitcom.  He played a fish out of water who left a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives in California after getting in a fight.  But you probably already knew that from the famous, catchy theme song.  I had loved Will aka The Fresh Prince for his novelty rap songs like “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”  This show was what made him a household name though.

Six Degrees of Separation

This was one of Will Smith’s first movie roles and it proved he could play serious parts.  Smith’s character interrupts a rich couple’s dinner party claiming to be a friend of their Ivy League children.  He charms his way into their home but there may be more to him than there appears.  This movie, adapted from John Guare’s play, is the basis of the Kevin Bacon game aka Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.   (I can link Will to Kevin in 2 degrees.  Will Smith stars with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.  Tommy Lee Jones stars with Brad Pitt in Ad Astra.  Brad Pitt is in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.)

Bad Boys

Will Smith joined fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence for this action film where they play detectives.  The duo proved to be so popular that not only did they make a second movie, a third one is slated to come out next year and a fourth one is in pre-production.

Independence Day

Man, I miss 1996!

This blockbuster set a precedent for a while.  It just wasn’t summer without a Will Smith movie, most of them coming out on Fourth of July weekend.  Smith plays a military pilot who helps defend Earth against an alien attack.  The special effects may seem dated today, but at the time the White House getting blown up by a UFO was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.  The movie became the highest-grossing film of 1996.  The following summer would see Smith working with aliens again.

Men in Black 

Don’t look at this or they’ll flashy-thing you.

Based on a comic book, this sci-fi comedy blockbuster paired Will Smith with Tommy Lee Jones.  They made for a winning team.  They play secret agents who are part of an organization that supervises alien lifeforms on Earth and hides their existence from humans.  The movie spawned three sequels and a cartoon series.

Ali

Smith plays boxer Muhammad Ali in this biopic.  His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination.  (I’m not going to discuss his second Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness.  If you want to see Smith in an inspirational role, watch The Legend of Bagger Vance instead.  It’s much less schmaltzy.)  Sadly, this is one of those films where the movie isn’t as good as the performance.  But it’s still worth seeing.  Will Smith becomes Muhammad Ali.

 

I Am Legend

I still feel like Smith was within a hair’s breadth of getting an Oscar nomination for this role.  You can feel his loneliness and isolation as the last man on earth after a zombie apocalypse.  The scene where he begs a mannequin to talk to him is SO GOOD!  This is easily one of my top films of 2007.  It’s a change from the more humorous sci-fi roles of ID4 and MIB.  This one’s more serious.  And he still rocks it.  It’s amazing how they were able to film/create an abandoned New York City, especially Times Square.

Focus

I love movies about con men.  And this one has Margot Robbie to boot.  Usually, Smith plays the hero.  It’s rare to see him play an antihero (like in Hancock).  This is a fun movie with some twists.

Concussion

Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in this important film about how football can lead to brain damage.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe but snubbed by Oscar for his performance about a doctor who takes risks to do the right thing.  This underrated performance is one of his best roles.

Suicide Squad

Deadshot putting up with Harley.

There aren’t words for how bummed I am that Smith won’t be reprising his role as Deadshot for the new Suicide Squad movie.  He made a great antihero, a villain you cared about.  He was a badass but he was also a loving father and made both halves of that believable.  He also had great rapport with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.  My only consolation is that he’ll probably play someone equally badass in the Marvel Cinematic Universe eventually.

Aladdin

No one else will ever be Robin Williams.  However, Smith brought his own original spin to the role of the Genie.  It’s hard not to enjoy this new version of the classic.

Don’t miss the best parts of Gemini Man or any of your other favorite movies.  Always use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for the latest movies like Ad Astra, Joker, and the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).

 

 

Movie Review – The Princess and the Frog

 

Movie Review - The Princess and the FrogThe Princess and the Frog is a suitably good and modern take on the “Princess” theme, with a jazzy little soundtrack and some true comedic moments. But is it moving? Inspiring? Maybe. Tiana, the Princess in question, is a good role model, with a solid work ethic.

Which makes me think…Tiana has a job. She works. Do any of the other Disney Princesses work at all, ever? Even the ones that aren’t royalty to start with seem to do…nothing. Belle, for example, apparently reads all day, to the amazement of the illiterates around her. Cinderella worked hard, basically as a slave, but I wouldn’t call what she did a job.

Aladdin at least has a profession (petty thief). The other Princes only seemed ride around the country, looking for sleeping Princesses to kiss. But, you know, this review should be about Tiana. 🙂

Tiana only wants to own a jazz club in New Orleans, which is a nice achievable goal. She works at least two jobs to get to her dream, and her parents aren’t abusive, so it’s not like there’s an evil stepmother in the picture, for once.

Which leads to the villain: the Voodoo guy. He has no motivation in the plot except to be evil for evil’s sake, and he really drags the film down. His stuff is so boring I can’t be bothered to look up his name. I know it’s hard to make a good villain, but when Disney hits it out of the park, magic happens. We start to care about the story.

In The Princess and the Frog, I only cared about the actual ‘frog’ scenes, which are definitely delightful. The swamp travel passages with the firefly and alligator are super fun, and emphasize the solid narrative message that looks can be deceiving. Prince Naveen is even quite ‘charming’ in his selfishness, and he has a nice arc with Tiana, who brooks no foolishness. Good for her.

But there’s the redneck scene, which is the kind of unpleasant throwback stereotypical storytelling I’d expect from Old Disney, which also drags the movie down. Ugh. (And that’s why their scene makes a great Peetime, having nothing to do with the plot and offering very awkward humor.)

So…I’d call this a middling Princess film. I was pleasantly surprised how Disney incorporated a lower class American heroine that wasn’t in love with a man because he was attractive and royal. And I liked how Naveen was sort of a brat, but good at heart, and he grew to love Tiana for her personality, not for her beauty.

Altogether, The Princess and the Frog is a nice movie that showcases a young woman of color in a way that never feels racist: her story is not about her skin at all, unless you count green froggy skin.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: If you can hold off for the Recommended 2nd Peetime at 51 minutes, you won’t miss any songs, and the scene in question is really quite dumb. We also provided an early Peetime at 40 minutes in case you really need it (it includes a minor song).

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Princess and the Frog. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (G) none
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

New Disney Princess Celebrates Racial Diversity

Movie Review – Abominable

 

Movie Review - AbominableWell, here I sit at my computer, absolutely gritting my teeth….again.

Here at RunPee, I am the animated film expert. I can qualify that statement by telling you I’ve been watching animated films for more than half a century. I kinda know what kids like and don’t like.

Abominable is a kid’s movie. It’s as simple as that. One critic wrote that the plot of Abominable was ‘childish’, like that’s a bad thing. Those critics that gushed over the likes of Les Miserables and The English Patient are now panning Abominable. Not cool; not cool at all.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest and am no longer gritting my teeth, I’ll review this film the way it should be reviewed; from a kid’s point of view.

Abominable is an absolute delight. Keeping in mind that little kids respond to sound, color and movement, this sweet film satisfies all three requirements. The sound of violins fill the movie, the color was exquisite, and the action was very much child friendly. So there, my criteria was met in all respects.

Some critics claim that the story was boring, and the theme was over used. The story was anything but boring; it hit on sadness over the loss of someone dear to them, the importance of family values, and eventually healing from the loss. And as far as the theme being over used; no child will ever tire of seeing plush toys coming to life.

I loved Abominable and will be taking my great-granddaughter to see it tomorrow. You do the same.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This was an easy movie for Peetimes. The 2nd Peetime gives you an extra 30 seconds that you should put to use, because the movie continues for another 35 minutes and shouldn’t be missed.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Abominable. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for some action and mild rude humor
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Movie Review – SmallFoot

Movie Review – Tangled

 

Movie Review - TangledI’m only 3/4 of the way through my first viewing of Tangled (yes, my 1st time) and I love it already so much I’m willing to give it an A+. Of course, they could screw it up during the climax and I’ll have to change my review, but so far I’m completely delighted.

Tangled: beautifully animated, very funny, and packs in a lot of adventure. I’m stingy with my A grades, and give almost nothing an A+, so this is a good endorsement from us at RunPee.

Great Characters

There’s a handsome Han Solo type of rogue. Which…yay! And of course there are amusing animal sidekicks. What’s cool is that both the horse and chameleon have a ton of attitude, which Disney doesn’t usually do. Actually, their “men” aren’t usually ‘jerks with a heart of gold’, except for Flynn here, and  Naveen in The Princess and the Frog. So this is kind of a treat. Ahem.

I smiled a lot, especially with the Snuggly Duck ruffians singing about their dreams. Really. What could be more cute than that scene?

This movie made me happy.

A Great Villain

Then there’s Gothel, the ‘wicked’ adoptive mother. She’s an awesome villain. Her songs are totally fun, and she’s actually nice to Rapunzel. She really is. She’s affectionate, goes out of her way to get Rapunzel a birthday gift, and gives the girl a decent life (albeit as a complete prisoner) with games, books, paints, a great kitchen, craft supplies, a lot of leeway for doodling all over the walls…pretty much anything one can do inside a nicely appointed tower.

Gothel’s not evil so much as selfish…but not completely unrelatable. She’s not about riches or power. She just wants to stay young and live. Ursula from The Little Mermaid is still my favorite Disney villain, but Gothel is surprisingly interesting. I liked her better than Scar from The Lion King, and he was previously my second favorite Disney villain. Good job, Tangled!

And a Disney Easter Egg or Two

I find one in the movie Tangled: a stylized depiction of Snow White’s Poisoned Apple painting on a stairway balustrade in Rapunzel’s Tower. Easy to miss, but it’s there.

Also, Rapunzel and Flynn show up at the Coronation scene in Frozen, which is pretty cool. Her hair is still short and brown. Disney doesn’t want to be a shared universe, but now that Pixar/Marvel have been absorbed by the Mouse, things are changing.

Tangled, Overall

I’ll be watching the last part of this movie tomorrow (I have to see Ad Astra tonight to get Peetimes) and really hope Tangled’s climax doesn’t let me down. I’ll be back soon to let you know if this is truly an A+ film.

UPDATE After Finishing Tangled: I’ll keep the A+. It met up with my expectations, even though I thought they could have wrapped up Mother Gothel’s story a little less gruesomely.  Put her in prison or something, like the Stabbington brothers, who were, you know, actually evil. I did love the return of the ‘dreamer’ ruffians, though. See? Some people are redeemable. (I really would like Disney to stop with the bad parent theme, like they did with Brave.)

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This Disney classic was re-released in theaters this Friday. When I do Peetimes for Disney Princess films, I do my best to avoid any songs, which is what most fans want to see. Some exposition or mild plot scenes are chosen instead, but are well-summarized in the synopses. Tangled has 3 good Peetimes, so you won’t be lost when you get back from the toilet. Pick any.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Tangled. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for brief mild violence
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

All the Disney Princess Songs – with You Tube Clips

moana disney princess
Singing to water and/or birdies is a Disney Princess thing.

What is a Disney Princess wish-filled ” I Want” song? Notice how all the girls — and some of the guys, IE: Aladdin and Snow White’s Prince Charming — have a song full of exposition about their hopes and wishes? This was even parodied in Ralph Breaks The Internet in a genius scene where the Princesses talk about singing a song and looking into water, leading Vanellope to find a puddle and sing her own ” I Want” song.

I don’t know why Princess Vanellope isn’t a proper princess, but I suspect she’s just too young.

ralph breaks the internet and princess venelope
Wreck-It Ralph himself- proof one can be both zero and hero.

There’s one official Disney Princess that doesn’t have a song — can you guess who this is? (Merida from Brave.) Also, Elsa from Frozen is not considered an official Princess for Disney marketing reasons, but she SHOULD be a princess, jeez, and Anna too. Elsa’s ” I Want” song is award-winning and beloved by fans. So I’m adding it to this list. Also, I really think of Nala from The Lion King should be a Disney Princess. She’s mated to Simba, and it says he’s a King right in the movie title. So her song is here too.

I’m rewatching each song clip right now to see if they all sing to some form of water. Can you guess which songs don’t feature water? I’ll write the answer below!

With no further ado, here are the all Disney Princess wishing songs with their song clips from You Tube — enjoy!

Snow White – “I’m Wishing”

Cinderella – “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”

Aurora – “I Wonder”

Ariel – “Part of Your World”

Belle – “Belle (reprise)”

Jasmine – “A Whole New World”

Nala – “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”

Pocahontas – “Just Around the Riverbend”

Mulan – “Reflection”

Tiana – “Almost There”

Rapunzel – “When Will My Life Begin”

Moana – “How Far I’ll Go”

Elsa – “Let it Go”

Vanellope – “A Place Called Slaughter Race”

So, who doesn’t sing to water?

Rapunzel, for one, unless you count paint. Belle doesn’t sing to any water in her song. Tiana doesn’t either, unless you count a pot of gumbo. I’m easy. Who else? Aurora and Cinderella only sing to birds, which is very “early Disney.”

Which I Want Princess songs are your favorites? Tell us in the comment section below. (I’ll tell you mine there to get started.)

Movie Review – Ralph Breaks the Internet

A Whole New World – Aladdin Lyrics and Video (1992 Animated Version)

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

 

Movie Review - The Little MermaidI am consumed by a move this weekend and will have to flesh this review out for real in bits and pieces.

To start off, the 1989 original Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid is in the cinemas and you should absolutely catch it while you can. Take the entire family. The Danish version of Hans Christian Anderson’s tragic story doesn’t rear its head at all, so you’ll be safe.

The Little Mermaid is my absolute favorite animated Disney movie that manages somehow to offend almost no one.

I know there are issues with the upcoming live action remake, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

And the songs are among the best the studio ever made. I know them all by heart. When I take my sister to see this again on Sunday we’ll have a hard time not singing along, out loud. Unless everyone sings them too — then we’ll belt them along with the rest.

Although the sea scenes are luscious, especially within the limited animated style of the time, it’s the fun and gentle humor that I love so much. If you’re a fan of Finding Nemo, this undersea adventure should also be on your must-watch list.

Lastly, for now, Ursula the Sea Witch is one of Disney’s best villains. Might be their best ever. I have to think on that.

GO SEE THIS IN THE THEATERS NOW. And you might be introducing a ‘whole new world’ to an old classic. (To mix my princess movie metaphors).

#UnderTheSea

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This animated classic is being re-released in theaters Friday. All 3 Peetimes are good. Make SURE to use them, so you don’t miss the outstanding iconic songs in this wonderful musical.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Little Mermaid. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (G) Some scenes are a little *fishy*.
Genres: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Movie Review – The Good Dinosaur (and The Pixar Theory)

the-good-dinosaur-poster
He’s really only an okay dinosaur.

Okay, yeah, this Pixar film was pretty, but not as pretty as Disney’s  The Lion King, which it also managed to…ahem…totally rip off. It’s also very reminiscent of Dreamwork’s initial Toothless scenes in How to Train Your Dragon.

It’s got some cute moments, and an interesting take on the feral dog boy. He’s a hoot, and seems smarter and more useful than Arlo, the useless titular young Apatosaur.

And from time to time, the story gives us some insight about how dinosaurs might have evolved culturally if that meteor skipped Earth entirely. But I didn’t really buy it. The world-building wasn’t there. This ended up being a buddy travel movie. There was some cleverness, but not up to the level I expect from a Pixar classic.

Why You Should See The Good Dinosaur Anyway

The only reason I saw The Good Dinosaur:  I watched a bunch of videos on The Pixar Theory, and the Cretaceous Era is kind of where the possibly interlinked overarcing story begins. So I found a copy of The Good Dinosaur (and it’s on Netflix right now, so catch it before Disney Plus steals it for their own private channel). I played it while cleaning my room (it’s not gripping enough to really sit and watch, no matter how amusing Sam Elliot is as a T-Rex herding longhorns).

By the way, The Good Dinosaur is an awful name for for movie. Did the producers really not care at all? What does that even mean?

The movie is mostly just sweet. Not bad. In fact, it’s slightly better than average. But I expect far better from Pixar.

For the first time, I’ll give a movie two grades, depending on how savvy and discerning you are in the animation genre.

Movie Grade for adults: C+

Movie Grade for Kiddoes: B (Gentle film, gentle humor, and hey, it only might make you cry.)

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Movie Review – How to Train Your Dragon (No Spoilers)

Pixar Fast Fact Video – Easter Eggs in Incredibles 2

 

Lion King – Animated vs Broadway vs Live Action

live action lion king with baby simba
It’s the Circle of life. (Sniff!)

The “live action” (actually CGI, folks) remake of The Lion King is hitting theaters.  This new version of the Disney 1994 classic features significant differences.  Now is a great time to return to Pride Rock — and revisit Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, Mufasa, Zazu, and Rafiki — as we compare the animated, Broadway, and the live action versions of The Lion King.

The Animated Version of The Lion King

In the summer of 1994, Disney released The Lion King.  It was the fifth film in the Disney renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  It was also the first Disney animated film that featured an original story, and not an adaptation of an existing property.  Although it does have strong similarities to the play Hamlet….(link goes to our cool comparison post).

Elton John and Tim Rice wrote the award-winning songs for the soundtrack. Remember Hakuna Matata, and Can You Feel the Love Tonight?   Hans Zimmer himself composed the score.

The movie was a true critical and box office success!

hakuna matata log scene from lion king with simba, timon, and pumbaa
Hakuna matata, forever!

Synopsis of The Lion King (Spoilers)

The film starts with a young lion cub named Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), heir to his father Mufasa’s throne.

All three versions of The Lion King open with the song “The Circle of Life” with the mandrill Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) presenting newborn Simba to the animal kingdom, who bow in reverence.

Simba’s uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) murders Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and blames Simba for it, sending him into exile and taking over the throne.  Simba forms a new family with free spirits Meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and Warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), who rescue him in the desert.  He embraces their philosophy of “Hakuna Matata” (No Worries).

Time passes.  Simba’s friend and love interest Nala (Moira Kelly) goes in search of him, and finds adult Simba (Matthew Broderick).  They fall in love (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”)  Nala tells him the Pride Lands are in ruin and everyone is starving under Scar’s reign.  She urges him to return home.

Simba refuses and storms off, unable to tell Nala he “killed” Mufasa.  Simba runs into Rafiki, who tells him his father’s spirit lives on in him.  Simba is visited by Mufasa’s spirit, who tells him he must take his rightful place as king (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther has this concept too, and is also from Disney Studios…hmmmm).

Unable to run anymore, Simba returns home.  Timon and Pumbaa distract the hyenas so Simba can get to Scar.  When Scar thinks he has Simba cornered, he confesses to murdering Mufasa.  Simba pins him to the ground and forces him to confess this out loud to everyone.  Like all Disney villains, Scar ends up getting what he deserves.  Simba takes his rightful place as king with Nala as his queen.  The last scene is of Rafiki presenting their own newborn cub.

The lion king broadway poster
See The Lion King on Broadway, or at Disneyworld, if you ever get the chance!

The Broadway Version of The Lion King

In 1997, Disney brought the Lion King to Broadway.  Beauty and the Beast was still going strong as a musical, so why not adapt one of their other biggest hits for the stage?  Indeed.

From the very start, Lion King was getting rave reviews and selling out. It won six Tonys, including Best Musical.  It is Broadway’s third-longest running show, and the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time.  It made over a billion dollars.  Julie Taymor became the first woman to win Best Director of a Musical.

One of the most significant differences between the Broadway version of — and the other versions of — The Lion King is the appearance of the animals.

Animation is not an option for a live theatrical Broadway performance.  Instead, Julie Taymor designed elaborate costumes — most of them based on puppetry — that create not only the illusion of the animals, but the grace of their movements.

Having seen the show at least five times, I can tell you the effect is breathtaking.  It is the kind of creative risk one wishes Disney would take more of.

rafiki in the lion king broadway musical
Rafiki in the Lion King Broadway musical

Another significant difference is that Rafiki was changed to female, and the role is now traditionally played by a woman on stage.  According to the Wikipedia, Taymor believed there was no leading female character in the film.  Rafiki becomes a sort of Greek chorus in the musical.  She actually leads the song, “The Circle of Life” at the top of the show.

New Lion King Songs in the Broadway Musical

Musicals are generally longer than the average Disney cartoon.  So material had to be added to flesh out the show.  Significant new songs included Zazu’s pun-filled “Morning Report,” Mufasa’s powerful explanation of ancestors “They Live in You,”  Rafiki’s reprise to Simba about Mufasa “He Lives in You,” and Simba’s lament “Endless Night.”

Other new songs written for the musical include:  “Grasslands Chant,” “The Lioness Hunt,” “Chow Down,” “Rafiki Mourns,” “One by One,” “The Madness of King Scar,” “Shadowland,” and “Simba Confronts Scar.”

The book was written by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, along with additional music and lyrics by Lebo MMark MancinaJay RifkinJulie Taymor, and Hans Zimmer.

Rafiki’s chants in “Rafiki Mourns” were written by Tsidii Le Loka, who originated the role on Broadway.  Of course, favorites from the animated movie such as “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” remain intact.

The Lion King musical also includes new scenes:

There is a conversation between Zazu and Mufasa about his parenting.  Timon nearly drowns in a waterfall while Simba watches, paralyzed.  This is an event that helps remind him of who he is and the power he has.  Nala departs from Scar when he tries to make her his queen in “The Madness of King Scar.”  She announces her intention to leave home and find help.  During new song “Shadowland”, the other lionesses and Rafiki bless her.

Meerkat Timon and Warthog Pumbaa in the Lion King Broadway musical
Meerkat Timon and Warthog Pumbaa in the Lion King Broadway musical

Of course, there were new actors playing the roles when the show debuted on Broadway.  The one I felt was especially cool was Max Casella, originating the role of Timon on-stage.  Those of you from my generation may remember him as Vinnie, Neil Patrick Harris’s best friend on Doogie Howser, M.D.

The Live Action Version of The Lion King

It is now 2019 and Disney has gone a little remake crazy. (Done or coming next: The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Mulan, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid.)  Then again, after seeing the promos that show the photo-realistic Circle of Life sequence, a live action Lion King kind of feels irresistible.

I should start off by saying “live action” is a misnomer.  Even though we’re all using this expression, the animals are actually computer generated animation.

A few things the new Lion King has in common with the original:  James Earl Jones is again the voice of Mufasa (as well he should be).  And Rafiki is male again.

Like the Broadway version, the new movie includes The Tokens’ classic pop song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”  The Broadway song, “He Lives In You” is also represented.  “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” are, of course, highlights of the film.

The movie also boasts a few new songs.  Beyonce contributed a song called “Spirit” and Elton John wrote a new song called “Never Too Late” — which plays over the credits.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s new version of “Be Prepared” is reported to be toothless compared to the original Jeremy Irons version.  Which is ironic, because his version of Scar is angrier and scarier, according to reviews.  He even fought Mufasa for the crown and lost: a new addition to the villain’s back story.

The visuals in the new movie are beautiful.  This is constant across all versions of The Lion King.  The sets on Broadway are amazing.  The look of the original animated film is still dazzling.  (If they ever do another IMAX re-release or even just a theatrical re-release, I highly recommend it.)

According to critics, the new movie fails in two key areas:

One is that by making the film photo-realistic, the characters and the world are now bound by the constraints of reality.  For instance, you can’t have a massive animal pile-up at the climax of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” or an army of hyenas during “Be Prepared.”

The 1994 film wasn’t bound by such constraints.  The Broadway musical gets around this by using a combination of inventive costumes and set pieces, stage magic, and the participation of the audience.  When you’re watching a play, you fill in things with your own imagination.  You’re an active participant in the process.

When you watch a movie, you’re more passive.  You don’t get to co-create the experience with the filmmaker.

The second flaw with the new movie is the limited range of expression the animals have.  Again, this is a problem with setting the movie in a photo-realistic world.  In animation and theater, you can get away with going over the top.  In theater, you have to play to the back row.  However, to accurately portray how an animal looks, you can’t exaggerate its features.

And Timon and Pumbaa? 

The good news is that Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) steal the show here (as they do in pretty much every version).  Some critics claim they’re even more fun in this version than in the original.

*****

Don’t forget to bring the RunPee app to The Lion King

It’s a jungle out there.  Don’t go to the movies without the RunPee app or you  might miss the best parts.  We’ve got Peetimes for The Lion King, Toy Story 4, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, with new movies added every week.  To stay up to date on the latest movie news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @RunPee and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RunPee/.

Aladdin –  Animated vs Stage vs Live Action

The Lion King – Can Disney Remake a Masterpiece?

Surprise! The Lion King is a Hamlet Remake

Character voices for Lion King

Movie Review – The Lion King (2019)

Movie Review - The Lion KingIf you’re not a Lion King fan, then I think you’ll find the 2019  live action (CGI, really) version more enjoyable than the animated one, based on more humor and the outstanding cinematography.

For my part, I feel a little numb because I effectively watched the movie three times today working on the Peetimes. And, until two nights ago, I hadn’t seen the animated Lion King since it first came out in the 90s.

The CGI is outstanding. There wasn’t a single moment where I could tell that something wasn’t real. Of course, the animal talking is unavoidably clumsy because animals don’t have the anatomy to actually talk. But I didn’t find it distracting.

The script has been revised slightly to make it more contemporary and add a little more humor. And the voice cast is top-shelf.

Speaking of humor: Seth Rogen, as the voice for Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as the voice for Timon, absolutely carried the movie. John Oliver as Zazu was a perfect choice; I just wish the writers had given him one five second rant to enjoy.

I’m bummed they didn’t bring back Whoopi Goldberg for Shenzi the hyena, but at least they had “the voice” as Mufasa: James Earl Jones.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I would recommend either of the first two Peetimes.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Lion King. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Drama, Remake

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Actor Voices for Every Lion King Character (2019)

Here’s a photographic list of the main characters and the actors’ voices behind them in the 2019 CGI (AKA ‘Live Action’) remake of The Lion King.

Lion King: Simba (young)

Simba (young)

Lion King Simba young JD McCrary

JD McCrary

This talented young (12 y/o) actor already has an extensive TV filmography, even appearing as a young Michael Jackson in the TV series American Soul.
Lion King: Simba (grown)

Simba (grown)

Lion King Simba grown Donald Glover

Donald Glover

Donald Glover is a writer, actor, musician, comedian, producer and director. You should recognize him as the young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story, or for a small, but important, role he had in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Personally, my favorite role of his is as the brilliant astrophysicist in The Martian who came up with the legendary Rich Purnell Maneuver. (For the classic film fans, the adult Simba role was played/sung by Matthew Broderick.) 
Lion King: Nala

Nala

Lion King Nala Beyonce

Beyoncé

Singer and stuff. 🙂
Lion King: Mufasa

Mufasa

Lion King Mufasa voice James Earl Jones

James Earl Jones

No one’s voice exudes power and majesty the same as James Earl Jones’, which is why he’s the only voice actor holdover from the original Lion King. He is Mufasa, and also, in case you didn’t know, the voice of Darth Vader. Among other roles. JEJ just commands respect.
Lion King: Scar

Scar

Lion King Scar voice Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Ejiofor is the Oscar nominated best actor for 12 Years a Slave. For Marvel fans, he’s known as Mordo, Dr. Strange‘s closest sorcerer mentors. Watch this YouTube video here to learn more about him, and especially how to pronounce his name. 🙂

I’m a big Firefly fan, so my favorite role of his is as The Operative in Serenity.

Lion King: Timon

Timon

Lion King Timon Billy Eichner

Billy Eichner

Eichner has done heaps of TV and voice work for years. If you watch American Horror Story, you’ll recognize him as Harrison Wilton / Mutt Nutter / Brock.
Lion King: Pumbaa

Pumbaa

Lion King Pumbaa Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen

If he’s not the funniest, most talented writer/actor in Hollywood right now, I’d like to know who is. (You shut up, James Franco. We’ve been over this. I respect you and you’re super talented, but you’re not Rogen-talented.)
Lion King: Rafiki

Rafiki

Lion King Rafiki John Kani

John Kani

If John Kani looks familiar, it’s probably because you recognize this Tony award winning actor as Wakanda’s King T’Chaka from Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.
Lion King: Zazu

Zazu

Lion King Zazu voice John Oliver

John Oliver

John Oliver is best known for his hit HBO show Last Week Tonight, and previously on The Daily Show, but recently he’s been very active as a voice actor for movies such as Wonder Park, The Smurfs 1, 2, etc., Robot Chicken, Danger Mouse, and much more.
Lion King hyena Shenzi

Sarafina

Lion King hyena Shenzi Florence Kasumba

Florence Kasumba

Florence Kasumba, born in Uganda, lives in Berlin. She’s one of the very few actors to cross over from the MCU to DC. She is Ayo, personal guard of the King of Wakanda in Black Panther, and also played Senator Acantha in Wonder Woman.
Lion King hyena Kamari

Kamari

Lion King hyena Kamari Keegan-Michael Key

Keegan-Michael Key

His name is Keegan-Michael because he’s actually two people: how else could he get so much work done? He’s been in… Actually, it might be faster to list what he wasn’t in. He didn’t appear in Downton Abbey, or Game of Thrones, but was in pretty much everything else, such as: The Predator, Lets Be Cops, Tomorrowland, Keanu, the voice for Ducky in Toy Story 4, and the voice for Murray in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
Lion King hyena Azizi

Azizi

Lion King hyena Azizi Eric André

Eric André

Eric is the host of his own TV show: The Eric Andre Show. He’s also appeared in a number of TV shows: in Disenchantment as Pendergrast, Man Seeking Woman as Mike, Lucas Bros Moving Co as Wes Borland / Satan / Red, 2 Broke Girls as Deke, and many others.

Movie Review – The Lion King (2019)

Lion King – Animated vs Broadway vs Live Action

The Lion King – Lyrics and Video to Hakuna Matata

The Lion Sleeps Tonight Lyrics & Video from The Lion King