You know the drill -- Simba, "Hakuna Matata," Scar, hyenas, Pride Rock, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," Mufasa, Nala, "Be Prepared," Elton John and Tim Rice, Rafiki, Timon, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" -- except now it's on a screen four stories high and has enough sound power to make every lion's roar reverberate in your chest. Disney's monster money maker, "The Lion King" (IMDb listing), has made its way to large-format cinema (IMAX), and there's just no better way to see it.
You could look at this new "Lion King" release in a glass half full/half empty kind of way. On one hand, Disney is once again bleeding dry an animated "classic," milking every family to spend more dough on a film that's never left the public consciousness since its release in 1994. Or you can see this new large-format release as the best presentation "The Lion King" will ever receive, and take the opportunity to drink in the picture's ample aural and ocular pleasures on a scale unlike ever before. I prefer the latter.
I was never a fan of "The Lion King." Call me heartless, but this tale of pride land lore didn't gel in my heart, and the songs...well, let's just say I politely grimace when I hear "Hakuna Matata." The beauty of these IMAX Disney releases -- such as last year's "Beauty And The Beast" -- is that these normally schmaltzy animated features energize when they're presented in a format bigger than life. "Lion King" has always been a film of unusual visual and emotional magnitude for Disney, and IMAX brings out the texture of the picture in a way a standard screen, and especially home video, is unable to.
From the opening showstopper "Circle Of Life," you can feel right away that "The Lion King" is at home on the large-format screen. Chills come one after another, the laughs are bigger, Mufasa's voice booms with auditorium-shaking authority, and the bittersweet tinge of the film is all the more heartbreaking. Normally, I wouldn't be so pleased with Disney's insistence on cramming their product down everybody's throat, but this film deserves the IMAX experience.
Filmfodder Grade: A-