The Lion King 3D

Remains a Classic

The Lion King 3DWhile I have heard some cynics suggest that the re-release of The Lion King in a 3D format was little more than a transparent gimmick to rake in a few more bucks for the Disney Studios, the truth is that it really doesn’t matter. For what movie lovers inherently understand is the simple fact that a great animated film is defined not so much on what you see as what you feel. And I can tell you without any qualification that the passage of time has not dimmed The Lion King’s magic in any respect.

As I have noted in earlier reviews, the label “great family entertainment” has been bastardized so frequently that it retains little meaning. It has morphed into a form of false advertising used by pandering critics.

Cinematic trash like this year’s Zookeeper are pedaled under that label despite the fact that most adults find them excruciatingly mind numbing. Sure, such banal, woeful fare will evoke a few laughs from kids when they see adults on screen acting like immature, insufferable idiots (think of nearly any Adam Sandler film), but these films are designed to do little more than rip off a desperate public looking for something reasonably entertaining for the whole family.

Which is precisely what makes films like The Lion King so heartwarmingly special. In my case, I took my two grandchildren, Connor, age 12, and Calen, age 9, and my two Saudi exchange students, Thamer and Aziz. Both of the boys are 20 years old, with Z attending Chapman University in California and Thamer IUPUI.

Incredibly, I discovered that The Lion King was one of Thamer’s favorites owing to the fact that he saw it several times as a child in Saudi Arabia. Z, who was visiting over a long weekend, saw the play on Broadway and surprisingly remembered the words of the classic Hakuna Matata. (He had both Connor and Calen laughing out loud as he sang it during the movie.) Equally important, the re-release of this classic piece of cinema gave Connor and Calen a chance to experience it for the first time in the theater, something that made it all the more special for me.

While most of you already know what this film is about, it is worth remembering that it is at its core a terribly moving story concerning the temporary nature of life and our mutual obligations to others while we have the honor of passing through it. In this day and age where the very concept of “family” is disintegrating on many critical levels in this country, The Lion King stands as an enduring testament to the valuable guidance that parents bring to a child.

As I watched young Simba struggle after the tragic death of his father, King Mufasa, I couldn’t help but think of the millions of young children who struggle in our nation every year where they have no father in the home. While politicians continue to bemoan the high crime and school dropout rate in our urban centers, nearly everyone continues to dodge the fundamental point that these kids have no effective role model as they grow up, and as a result become lost to the system during their teenage years.

If you’ll pardon me making a political observation, as a country we have no meaningful hope of addressing this problem until we realize that the schools have to play the role of parents. In that regard, until we make the financial commitment to have school year round, particularly in major metropolitan areas, then we are doomed to repeat the failures of the past with the result of losing another generation of children.

The Lion King, which won two Oscars (1995) for best original score and original song, literally set the stage for the great animated films that were to follow in its considerable wake. When you think of such brilliant films as Monsters, Inc. (2001); Finding Nemo (2003); The Incredibles (2004); Wall-E (2008); Up (2009); The Princess and the Frog (2009) and How to Train Your Dragon (2010), you begin to realize the debt that movie fans across the globe owe to the genius of the Disney Studios.

While there are many reasons to see this year’s wry, extraordinarily creative Rango, it is worth noting that it contains a clever scenario involving the comment by a demented little toad concerning the “Circle of Life”. Given that this is one of the endearing songs in The Lion King, we all can clearly see that this film is the gift that keeps on giving.

In any event, you really shouldn’t let this opportunity pass. The Lion King is only supposed to run for two weeks in the theater, so do yourself a gigantic favor and plan ahead now.

Hakuna Matata.