The Lion King 1 ˝ Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/16/2004
Most direct-to-video sequels are absolutely awful. In the last few years, Disney has made some uninspiring sequels to their classic films, the worst one in my opinion being Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure. One of the decent ones though was The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. It was because of this that I wasn’t too worried about seeing The Lion King 1 ˝. Since I don’t normally review videos or DVD’s on this site, I can’t really comment on DVD features or production quality (I saw it in a special theatrical screening), so I will just concentrate on the movie.
This movie is essentially a re-telling of the first movie, only from the perspective of the meerkat Timon (voiced by Nathan Lane) and the warthog Pumbaa (voiced by Ernie Sabella.) While watching it, you may start thinking about Back to the Future II (at least I did), since it shows clips of the original movie, but from the sidelines. It starts off in Timon’s world before the events of the first movie. While all of his peers are digging tunnels, Timon just wants to sing and dance, which is a constant source of stress for his mom (voiced by Julie Kavner) and Uncle Max (voiced by Jerry Stiller.) He fails to dig tunnels properly, so they give him the task of watching out for hyenas. His own singing distracts himself from doing this right too, and the hyenas nearly wipe them out. He realizes that he needs to find a place that he can sing and dance all day, and have no worries doing so. He leaves the meerkat community and seeks out this place. Along the way, Rafiki (voiced by Robert Guillaume) confronts him and tells him to look past what he can see (something that never makes a lot of sense, even to Timon, throughout the movie.) He also meets Pumbaa for the first time, who tells him about “Hakuna Matata,” which, as you know, means “no worries.” It’s also apparently a residence, because the area that they discover together is constantly referred to as Hakuna Matata. Timon initially uses Pumbaa for his gastrointestinal ability to scare away enemies, but they eventually become friends. They also become friends with a young lion cub named Simba (voiced by Shaun Flemming as a cub, Matthew Broderick as an adult.) Their paradise is threatened when Simba falls in love with Nala (voiced by Moira Kelly), which takes his time away from hanging out with them. They are also threatened by Shenzi (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) and Banzai (voiced by Cheech Marin), two henchhyenas of Scar (who is seen as a character briefly, but Jeremy Irons didn’t come back vocally.) Timon must decide if he wants to give up Hakuna Matata to help his friends, or go on without them. Timon and Pumbaa are watching this tale along with us (complete with silhouettes in front of the screen, a la “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Don’t worry…it isn’t onscreen the whole time.) They continually pause the movie to comment about the action on the screen.
Some people may think that these constant interruptions might be annoying or distracting, but I thought that they were fun. I never assumed that this was going to be a fully fleshed out movie, so I thought that the re-telling angle was creative. It allowed them to make fun of themselves. For example, do you remember that famous scene in the original movie where all of the animals bowed before the future lion king being held over Pride Rock by Rafiki? We learn in this one that at least one section of those animals didn’t bow, but instead passed out from one of Pumbaa’s farts, which resulted in the other animals thinking that they had to bow. They play around with the original movie like that many times in this one.
One of the cool things that this one had that many video sequels don’t have is the return of most of the original vocal cast. Irons and James Earl Jones are about the only original major voices who didn’t return. Kavner and Stiller are fun additions, but, through no fault of her own, Kavner sounded like Marge Simpson (hey…when you do the same voice nonstop for almost 20 years, it’s hard to shake it.)
If you liked The Lion King and its sequel, you’ll definitely enjoy The Lion King 1 ˝. It may feel a little odd with all the commentary by Timon and Pumbaa and the whole re-telling thing, but it’s worth the rent (or purchase, if you own the first two movies.)
Even though I didn’t see the 2-disc DVD, I will let you know what extras are on it, based on press releases. On disc 1, there are seven deleted scenes and a game called Hidden Mickey Hunt (20 images of Mickey’s head are hidden throughout the movie and you need to find them.) Disc 2 has two sections: featurettes and games. In the featurettes section, you have Before the Beginning: The Making of The Lion King 1 ˝ (15 minutes long); Timon: Beyond the Legend (5 minutes long), a mockumentary hosted by Peter Graves; and a music video for “Grazing in the Grass” by Raven-Symone. In the games section, you have Timon & Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari 1.5, which sends the main characters on a theme park ride; Who Wants To Be King Of The Jungle?, a version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” hosted by Meredith Viera; and Find the Face, where Disney characters are shown in a dark silhouette against the movie screen and you have guess which one it is. It sounds like fun at first, but once you play them the first time, they may get old. Kids will probably get hours of kicks out of them though.
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