April 16, 2009

The Lion King 1½ (2004)

I’M NOT A FAN OF direct-to-video movies. Whether it’s true or not, the perception is that they are less than great and weren’t worthy of big-screen releases.

So when my wife brought home a copy of The Lion King 1½ from our local Once Upon a Child, I wasn’t exactly pumped to watch it. But since Dash wound up watching it every day for a whole week, I figured I should check it out.

• We open with Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) in background silhouette in a screening room, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. They’re watching the original Lion King, when Timon announces that it needs more of them in it – so they go “way back, to before the beginning” to tell the story of how he and Pumbaa first met…
Timon is the black sheep of his meerkat community – accidentally collapsing tunnels being dug by his fellow brethren, botching his turn at sentry duty and letting hyenas run wild on the meerkat terrain, etc.
• Frustrated with the limits of his meager meerkat surroundings (and urged by his mother, The SimpsonsJulie Kavner), Timon sets out to find his place in the world.
In his travels, he runs into Pumbaa, and together they head to a patch of paradise just on the other side of Pride Rock (or “the big pointy rock,” as they call it).
• Along the way, they insert themselves, Forrest Gump-like, into events from the original Lion King: the birth of Simba, a couple of musical numbers, the elephant graveyard, the wildebeest stampede, etc.
• After reaching their paradise hideaway, they save Simba from dying in the desert after he fled the aftermath of the original Lion King’s wildebeest stampede. It’s at this point that The Lion King 1½ syncs up with the original film.
• Timon and Pumbaa continue telling their story in narration mode, with several humorous interruptions along the way.

• Kudos to Disney for bringing back all of the original performers from the original Lion King for The Lion King 1½ – including Lane, Sabella, Matthew Broderick (Simba), Robert Guillaume (Rafiki), Moira Kelly (Nala), Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi), Cheech Marin (Banzai), and Jim Cummings (Ed). The film even features new music by Elton John and Tim Rice.
The animation is surprisingly good – very fluid and seamless, much like theatrical Disney releases.
There are several in-jokes based on Lion King lore, including two of my favorites:
1) When Timon and Pumbaa pass Simba’s birth ceremony at Pride Rock, Pumbaa asks about Rafiki, “What’s he holding up?” Timon: “Eh, it’s not important.”
2) When an ominous cloud rolls across the night sky, Timon says, “C’mon Pumbaa, let’s go, that cloud’s really coming to a head.” As they turn away, Mufasa’s likeness appears in the cloud.
The Lion King 1½ won a 2004 Annie Award for Best Home Entertainment Production – beating out, among others, Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster.
• There are also fun references to classic Disney characters and songs (with a final scene that has to be seen to be believed), plus pretty funny homages to Fiddler on the Roof, Apocalypse Now, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Though my interest tapered near the end, The Lion King 1½ was a solid, fun, watchable film. Direct-to-video releases have been spared my wrath…for now.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).

What did Dash think?
Like I said at the beginning, my wife bought it one weekend, Dash watched it every day after school for a week, and then still wanted to watch it with me the following weekend. I think it’s safe to say he liked it.

Will your kids like it?
I’d say yes, if Dash is any indication. Even his 3-year-old little brother couldn’t get enough of it. There wasn’t anything scary or too intense for either of them. (Scatological alert: There is a running gag of Pumbaa’s chronic flatulence, and all the jokes that come with it.)

Will your FilmMother like it?
My FilmMother liked The Lion King 1½ because it was “cute and harmless” – which, coincidentally, are the opening words of the latest user comment for The Lion King 1½ at the Internet Movie Database.

In the jungle, you can't blame the dog.

The Lion King 1½
* Director: Bradley Raymond
* Screenwriter: Tom Rogers
* Stars: Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Julie Kavner, Jerry Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Robert Guillaume, Moira Kelly, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings
* MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>


Gemma said...

Wow, sounds like a really fun film. As one of only a smattering of adults who own their own copy of "The Lion King," I would love to see this! Could you ask Dash if Gemma may borrow it? :-)

James said...

Not often you get a follow-up that is much good. This one sounds ok. Thanks for the review.

Keith said...

I've only seen the first film. I don't usually end up watching these direct to video sequels. I might have to give this one a shot.

Jim @ CoolStuffForDads.com said...

Nice review, the first Lion King was very good, amazing that is about 15 years old!!

Armil@broadway lion king said...

I really want to watch Lion King again and again. It makes me laugh, jump and cry.

Thanks for sharing!


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