A couple of weeks after posting my Lion King review I was speaking with a friend. She had just purchased her first DVD player (bless her) and was detailing to me some movies she wanted. I mentioned a few great releases at the present time to help and when I noted The Lion King she became quite conspiratorial and told me a tale of her partner. He is a hard-working Aussie truck driver (replete with blue singlet and all) and once, while out on the road, he apparently stayed in some pub one evening and pulled up a seat in the bar (as you do).
|"Shall we run for our lives…?"|
Playing on the in-house TV was The Lion King and apparently all 15 or so Aussie blokes at the bar, dirty and dusty and sweaty from work, were transfixed to this small TV hovering above the bar in this nameless town. Something in that film managed to strike a chord with those men and that’s the effect the film has; it is pure mass appeal.
Fast forward to today, but a few months since The Lion King finally came to DVD. The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata is upon us. (There was a second instalment a few years back called Simba’s Pride that suffered the usual sequelitis of Disney DVD, however a 'Special Edition' is on the way). Hakuna Matata isn’t so much a sequel and it isn’t truly a prequel. For want of a better term, it is a parralequel (I’ve just invented that word, so anyone else who uses it better credit me with it).
Occuring simultaneously (if slightly out of true chronology) with the events of The Lion King, it tells us the tale of how Timon and Pumbaa managed to get kicked out of their own herds. Timon is the misfit, the square peg, the odd one out (read: Individual Thinker) whose ambition becomes just too much for the meerkat crowd and he leaves. But not before we’ve met his Ma (voiced by none other than Julie Kavner, mother to one Bart Simpson) and his Uncle Max (voiced by Jerry Stiller, father to one George Costanza and another one Ben Stiller).
The savanna is scary for one lone meerkitty and with thanks he soon bumps into Pumbaa, a warthog (not to be confused with Hogwarts™®, children). Their ‘acquaintanceship’ sees the pair searching for selfish Timon’s perfect place and we then visit various places we’ve curiously seen before (and recently on DVD). And, in each one, there’s a subtle story behind the action we remember seeing originally (kinda like in Back to the Future 2).
Eventually they are in place to receive Simba in his exile and then we watch the real story behind Timon and Pumbaa’s reasons for preventing Simba and Nala falling in love. Finally, we head back to Pride Rock for the final showdown and learn of Timon’s brilliant input into winning the battle against the hyenas. But will it be enough to finally win the applause of his peerkats? (Haha, that gag was all me, baby!)
Hakuna Matata is one of those films where the original feeling has been well captured and then given a serious 21st century bent. The film is played out in a cinema with the silhouettes of Pumbaa and Timon holding the remote and controlling what we see. And they fast forward, rewind, freeze frame and any manner of other things at their self-promoting will. That doesn’t sound like it would flow very well, but surprisingly it does, even when they change channels and we’re suddenly watching live action home shopping. There are a zillion Disney stable cameos included, the film includes a heartfelt singalong to Hakuna Matata (the original catchy song) and allover it feels a lot like the way kids' minds are tuned these days; to catch multiple stimulants from multiple forms of input (there’s yet one more oddity included but I’ll come to that in due course).
I can say with all honesty I was quite mesmerised by the whole thing and pleasantly surprised to see such an experiment in action. I imagine, though, Disney are trying very hard to get away from the direction their previous sequels (parralequels®™ even) have taken them and here they have excelled brilliantly in both capturing the original verve, modernising it without losing that verve and bringing something wholly new to the table.
Well, Disney like to include a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack whether a film needs it or not, and here the film both needs and uses it. Multiple channels of jungle noises, fire, water and underground echoes practically fill the film from end to end. The subwoofer gets its game on a couple of times, most notably during the wildebeest stampede and the final storm on Pride Rock, though it stays busy with the music anyway.
Dialogue is all voiced perfectly and it didn’t take the closing credits for me to recognise the two new additions of Kavner and Stiller. Two more distinctive voices I can’t imagine (though to her credit, Kavner has tried to not sound like Marge). Sound effects lend from the first film and sound great while the music here has been scored by Don Harper. Elton John and Tim Rice have been asked back for another song though, but Harper’s reworking of the original soundtrack is brilliant and uses the modernisation angle again. The beauty of the theatre feel to the piece means there are numerous film references in music, like Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme and Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Hans Zimmer also throws a couple in among other notable artists and musicians. These, again, just contribute to the enjoyment of the film and sound awesome.
If you, like the majority of sweaty, dusty truckdrivers in Australia, liked The Lion King (and who didn’t?) then this one will please just as effectively. Perhaps even slightly more as this one doesn’t need to take itself so seriously and makes the most use of that. Pumbaa’s terminal gas is a good example of that… (cough).
Happily all the major cast of important folks have turned up again for this parallequel®™ (remember, I own that word) which gives the film credibility (even if it doesn’t really need it). About the only original who didn’t make it back was Rowan Atkinson as Zasu and Zasu only gets maybe one line in this, so who cares? Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella work brilliantly together as our leads with Whoopi and Cheech also turning up, but of course young Simba can't be voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas anymore because he's too old and not on TV anymore.
I recommend this for anyone who dug on the first one and wishes for something more. This isn’t a ham-fisted, money-grubbing DVD sequel (parallequel™®) but a well constructed, well thought out augmentation of the original film. It’s great and the kids will love it (and so will you).