Simba returns to the screen bigger than ever as the enormously successful “The Lion King” makes its way into IMAX theatres after conquering not only the cinematic boxoffice back in 1994 but the world of video and Broadway as well. To this reviewer the movie represented the beginning of the decline in the Second Golden Age of Disney animation after the charms of “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Beside those pictures, the story of Simba and his pals seemed cloying, preachy and self-important; it was beautifully crafted, of course, but the only things that gave it real fizz were the lowbrow comedy business of Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), the archness of Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) and the snarling villainy of Scar (Jeremy Irons). All else was too sweet, too heartwarming, too labored.
Still, the picture has a certain visual grandeur, and families who have warmed to it around their television sets or enjoyed the stage adaptation will jump at the chance to see it on the big screen again, especially in the flawless IMAX transfer. The sound, as usual, is particularly impressive booming through the opulent speaker systems that are part and parcel of the large-format experience. But the artwork remains splendid, too; even the fact that much of it is hand-drawn carries a certain nostalgic charm.
There are no changes or additions to the film, as there were, for instance, in the recent IMAX reissue of “Beauty and the Beast.” This is merely the 1994 film blown up to extravagant size. But for those who remember it fondly, that should be enough.