As far as technical wizardry goes, The Lion King is extraordinary.

The photorealistic CGI animation is truly breathtaking. It takes a moment to get your head around the seamless marriage of what looks like a nature documentary, with talking animals and a fictional story. No wonder the little girl sitting beside me at the screening kept asked her father how the animals were talking. Her next trip to the zoo will be a disappointment.

Director Jon Favreau doesn't mess with the story; the script is mostly unchanged and the scenes similar to the original film, just with a little extra padding.

What is new is the ground-breaking method of shooting an animated film - a process very different to the hand-drawn animation of the 1994 original - the realism that Favreau brings to the visuals and started playing with in his 2016 version of The Jungle Book, and a largely new cast.

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However, beyond the visual look of the film, you could argue it's too same-same, and possibly too safe for those already familiar with this relatively simple coming-of-age story about young cub Simba (Donald Glover), as he deals with the loss of his father (James Earl Jones) and finds the courage to take on his evil Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) so he can rule the Pride Lands.

A Hamlet-inspired family drama, except for maybe the light-hearted jungle scenes, the characters are there to propel this one story. There's little in the way of the sophisticated backstories or subplots we've come to expect in animated features.

The biggest challenge lies in taking realistic-looking animals and turning them into characters we can get emotional about. Beyonce, Glover, Earl Jones help with this, but it's Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and Timon (Billy Eichner) who provide the humour which, when combined with the classic musical numbers, provide the energy and connection.

The Lion King doesn't tug on the heart strings as strongly as you'd expect but the mastery and technical brilliance goes some way in making up for it.

Cast:

Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones

Director:

Jon Favreau

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Running Time:

118 mins

Rating:

PG (Violence)

Verdict:

A stunning-looking remake, if a little soulless.