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Review: The Lion King 3D

Published: Thursday, September 15, 2011

Updated: Thursday, September 15, 2011 11:09

The Lion King 3D review

Walt Disney Studios

The Lion King 3D

Starring Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons and Nathan Lane

Directed by Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers

Rated G

Grade: B+


Nobody really knew Matthew Broderick could sing, back in the early ‘90s. Still, it's a little bit of a surprise to recall that Disney used somebody else to do his crooning in 1994's "The Lion King." A year later, Broderick would storm Broadway in the musical revival "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

"Lion King" was the movie that Disney insiders regard as a high-water mark for traditional Disney animation, the exclamation point on the success story that began with "The Little Mermaid" and continued with "Beauty and the Beast." That cell-animated (with some digital sequences) classic earns a nice 3-D dressing up in "The Ling King 3D," Disney's two-week re-issue of the film, opening Friday. That's to be followed by an early October release on BluRay.

It still looks lovely, with beautifully drawn lions and hyenas – plus a warthog, a meerkat, a mandrill and a hornbill, and assorted other denizens of the African savannah. The wildebeest stampede is almost as novel and breathtaking as it was when the film was new.

And those voices – Nathan Lane's career had a major uptick after his turn in this, and Lane and his "Guys and Dolls" co-star Ernie Sabella made Disney's greatest comic team – pre-Buzz and Woody.

"So kid, what's eatin' you?"

"NOTHING! He's at the top of the food chain!"

Jeremy Irons must have worn a mustache into the recording booth to voice Scar, the villain. There's a mustache twirl in every treacherous line. James Earl Jones, as the king, Mufasa, gave the story's message weight: "Being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble."

Maybe "Hakuna Matata" has become a musical cliché, but the Jackson Five-ish "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" still tickles. And Elton John's anthems "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "The Circle of Life" are likewise so much a part of the culture as to seem worn, but still soar.

The 3-D doesn't add much – only depth – to this film, which won a couple of Oscars upon its release. A wildebeest or hyena almost falls into your lap, here and there.

Once upon a time, pre-video, Disney reissued its classics to theaters for short runs so that a new generation could experience them the way they were meant to be seen. That makes this "Lion King" revival part of a grand tradition, 3-D or not. Some who were just children 17 years ago have the chance to make this the first Disney film their kids see in a theater.

Lucky them.

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