A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This isn't an educational film, but it does have lessons about honesty, communication, responsibility, and the individual versus the greater good.
Focuses on ideas of family, love, duty, sacrifice. Mufasa's willingness to save Simba exhibits unconditional love. As Simba grows up, he comes to understand that he has a responsibility to his father's kingdom to take his place. All living things are connected to each other and rely on each other; you have to respect the balance of nature and all of its creatures. It's perfectly natural to be scared; what matters is how you handle your fear. Courage, humility, perseverance are clear themes; Mufasa tells Simba that "a true king's power is his compassion."
Positive Role Models
Mufasa is a wise, loving father and a caring leader who does his best to keep the pridelands safe and teach Simba about his responsibilities as his heir. Simba makes mistakes and acts impulsively (sometimes disobeying his father) but also learns to face his fears, tell the truth, and assume his responsibilities as a leader. He demonstrates courage, perseverance, and humility. Sarabi, his mother, is also selfless and loving. Nala is caring and a courageous lioness. Timon and Pumbaa are loyal friends who rise to the occasion despite their laid-back philosophy; Pumbaa refuses to tolerate bullies or let them make him feel bad about how he looks. Zazu is loyal. Scar is clearly a villain; he's selfish, deceitful, and manipulative.
Violence & Scariness
Frightening scenes include very lifelike scenes of animals hunting and fighting fiercely; key characters die. Realistic animation intensifies the violence, even for viewers familiar with story. Claws and teeth. Animals snarl at, attack one another. Potential spoiler alert for anyone who isn't familiar: In one particularly upsetting sequence, Mufasa is pushed off a ledge and then trampled to death by stampede of wildebeest; Simba screams in fear and sadness (scene is later revisited in flashback), later curls up by Mufasa's body. Hyenas chase, terrorize, try to kill two lion cubs, later fight with Mufasa, who injures, if not overtly kills, several hyenas. A lion and a herd of hyenas keep trying to kill a bird. Hyenas are depicted as snarling scavengers always ready to pounce. Simba falls over a cliff while being chased; the hyenas think he's dead (he's not). Vultures circle around a young, tired cub. Two lions fight nearly to the death. The hyenas jump on and kill a lion. Fire starts and spreads during the climactic battle scenes. The elephant graveyard is creepy and ominous. Scar has some blood on his fur while eating a kill.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nala and Simba fall in love as young adult lions. They're shown hugging and rubbing against/petting each other.
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"Farted," "pathetic," "that's insane," "stupid," "chubby," etc.
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Products & Purchases
No product placement in the movie itself, but, as with all Disney films, there are plenty of off-screen merchandise tie-ins, including apparel, toys, games, fast-food figurines, even a Broadway musical.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Lion King is an extremely realistic computer-animated remake of Disney's beloved 1994 original. Because of the realism (you'll likely forget you're not watching real animals some of the time), the violence is definitely more intense and potentially upsetting here than in the more cartoony classic. The insatiably hungry and scavenging hyenas, the terrifying and tear-jerking wildebeest stampede sequence (which ends in a tragic death), and the claw- and teeth-filled fight scenes are undeniably scary, even for those who know what to expect. That said, there's plenty of humor, too, including potty jokes from Pumbaa and Timon (the original movie's implied "farted" is said loud and proud in this version of the pair's "Hakuna Matata"). And it has clearly positive themes and messages: Parents and kids can discuss issues regarding family, friendship, loss, responsibility, and community. The all-star voice cast includes Donald Glover (adult Simba), Beyoncé (adult Nala), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Billy Eichner (Timon), and the venerable James Earl Jones reprising his inimitable role as King Mufasa. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
With its impressive visuals and well-cast voice ensemble, this remake is charming but darker and more Shakespearean than the original. Disney's live-action adaptations have yielded mixed results, but this one benefits from the legendary music, the gravitas of Jones' voice as Mufasa, and a stand-out cast across the board. Ejiofor's performance as Scar is particularly wonderful, which is no surprise, considering his classical dramatic training. Glover and Beyoncé have good voice chemistry in the final act of the movie, and she -- as you'd expect -- is perfectly fierce sounding. And Eichner and Rogen are quite funny as the latest incarnation of Timon and Pumba ... until it's time for Rogen to sing, and then audiences might wonder why an actual singer wasn't hired. Since a big part of the joy of the movie is the musical performances, Rogen's casting is a bit of a head scratcher. But he mostly makes up for his lack of singing prowess with his comedic timing and banter with Eichner.
The realistic animation is technologically astounding, but it intensifies the violence to an unexpected degree. The snarling hyenas are positively creepy, even though they, too, occasionally have lighthearted one-liners. And there's a greater horror in seeing Mufasa's demise unfurl here than in the original animation. This remake is also more overtly Shakespearean, with its Hamlet-like themes and characters. Bottom line? While entertaining and enjoyable, this remake doesn't offer much memorable original content aside from Beyoncé's new song, "Spirit," and a few lines of dialogue. Despite its stunning effects and all-star cast, the movie doesn't fully live up to the hype of modernizing the classic for a new generation.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.