The Lion King (1994)

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Roger Allers and Rob Minkof direct Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones in this Hamlet inspired tale of a Lion prince who goes absent after his father’s murder.

The Lion King has never been a favourite. I never rated it as a teenager but then again I was a teenager, starting to define my movie tastes through Tarantino, De Palma and Verehoven… Disney was pointedly kid’s stuff. Another chance for the global megahit released when I was putting away childish things then… Two decades down the line it turns out that spotty, greasy me actually had this one bang on. The Lion King is just dull. The Oscar winning Elton John songs are insipid. The king by birth right plotline grating. Maybe it is the small ‘r’ republican in me but I find “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and prologue’s overwrought ceremonial worship for the birth of Simba’s by the other subjugated species to chafe at my very soul. The royalty aspect of other Disney films comes from a narrative necessity: so that Princes and Princesses are just a key to an ideal, albeit sometimes stolen, dream life. The crown is the symbolic prize for the good, heroic and lovely, there is no political import to it as the end point of the drama. A fantasy full stop with banquets and four poster beds and romantic happiness for everyone. Whereas here it constantly suggests that the chosen apex predators are essential to a cohesive society, the strong must lord it over the weak, Ayn Rand meets The Jungle Book, the Divine Right of Kings propaganda with Happy Meal tie-ins. UGH! The animation is handsomely put together but lacks the gilded Wow Factor spectacle of Beauty and the Beast, the perfectly calibrated adventure sequences of Aladdin or darker, underrated The Hunchback of Norte Dame. As for the forced humour… I think by the eighth “food chain” dud gag we can maybe all just put some guns in our mouths. The post- Walt conveyor belt at its most soulless nadir, though I realise it is wildly, inexplicably successful.  Can you feel the hate tonight?

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