Movie Review: “The Lion King 3D”

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 3D 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 cliche, 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 3D 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 re-issued 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, 3D 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.

MPAA Rating: G

Cast: Matthew Broderick (Simba), Jeremy Irons (Scar), Nathan Lane (Timon), Ernie Sabella (Pumba), Moira Kelly (Nala), James Earl Jones (Mufasa)

Credits:Directed by Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers, produced by Don Hahn. A Walt Disney Pictures release. Running time: 1:29

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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