Saturday, July 27, 2013

Let’s Review a Movie: The Lion King 1 ½ (2004)

You know the title card for this film where the background cracks apart just really sums up this film in a nutshell.  This thing is wrecked on arrival.

There aren’t all that many movies that make it on my hate list, but this however is one of them.  It’s because it actively stomps all over the original film; right from the beginning where Timon does this cringe worthy dubbing over of the great opening chant of The Lion King.  Now I found Timon and Pumbaa to be annoying in Simba’s Pride and even in The Lion King, as an adult, I find them to be just okay, so getting an entire movie to themselves is certainly not something I would want to see.  However, seeing some events from their lives might have been interesting if the film didn’t ruin things by constantly shifting the tone.  It’s not just shifting the tone of the first film like turning Simba’s ceremony into a giant fart joke.  It’s the undermining of the story they’re trying to tell within their own film.  Even the touching moments in the story of this film are filled with stupid comedy.  Timon leaving home should be an emotional moment and then it’s ruined by the nagging mom stuff.  Also Timon’s mom and uncle Max are fun but not in the movie long enough to save it from being awful.  Pumbaa is just basically one long running fart joke and I don’t think I ever found flatulence humour funny.

Also Rafiki is just one giant facepalm here.  Guys you do remember that Rafiki acting all weird with Simba when he first met him was just an act right?  Also why does he give the hakuna matata phrase to Timon?  Why couldn’t it have just come from Pumbaa?  Furthermore having Rafiki even be in here is another punch to the gut of the first movie.  As a fan I like continuity few things annoy me more in a sequel than seeing it chuck continuity out the window to make the ‘story’ work.  Timon meeting Rafiki before the events of first film breaks continuity, otherwise his “who’s the monkey?!” line makes no sense.   Timon hasn’t been to the pridelands before seeing it run down from Scar’s rein.   Bowling for buzzards wasn’t a new game for them in the original film.  The whole tunnels thing is a poor tie back to the beginning of the film and puts the hyenas in the wrong spot to attack Scar at the end; and the whole proposal distraction with Timon and Shenzi falls into the ‘this is creepy and I don’t want to watch it’ category.

Now the lack of anything resembling a good story might have been marginally forgivable if the film at least looked nice, but frankly I think the animation just sucks.  From characters being off model to too human like movements it all annoys me.  Also having clips from the original movie in here just further shows the complete drop in quality.  It’s been ten years between this film and the original, the CGI wildebeests should have gotten better over time not worse.

The whole movie with in a movie concept just bothers me.  It just feels like it taking all the majesty and beauty of The Lion King and minimizing it.  Instead of building on this grand story as its own universe, like Simba’s Pride tried to do even if I think it failed this film just turns the whole thing into a great big farce.  Yes it’s based on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but that film is self-contained.  It doesn’t do it’s story within a story idea with a Mystery Science Theatre commentary, or by inserting clips from something like Kenneth Branagh’s visually rich film of Hamlet and having such a dramatic shift in quality and tone.  The only good thing with the gimmick is Donald’s tantrum when Stitch steps on him, and the appearance from Briar Bear from Song of the South.  Nice work to whoever snuck him in there.

Finally there is only one good thing is the entire film for me and that’s the parenthood scene.  There was a great use of the song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ done by Lebo, who did the vocals for the opening of the ‘Circle of Life’.  The inter-cut ‘Jungle Boogie’ song used for the daytime clips is a bit jarring but I’m willing to overlook it.  We get a nice emotional moment with Simba having a nightmare and there was even a fun callback to The Lion King with Timon saying that they were going to get old walking across the log.  I also liked the snail slurping contest afterwards, but that’s only because we got to see Simba as a teenager and I always wanted to see that. 

Other than that I think the film fails on every level.  The animation ranges from okay to complete junk, the music is forgettable.  The plot connects to the first film with all the finesse of a bull in a china shop.  The voice talent, again much of the original cast, is wasted in fact the whole movie is a waste.  I mean they could have used this film to expand the story between the first two films.  They could have shown Mufusa’s time as a cub to give more backstory to the events of The Lion King, but instead they created a completely empty joke of a movie devoid of anything that made the first film great. 

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