DISNEY’S update of The Lion King is stunning to look at — and the better of two movies about big cats this week — but lacks the heart of the 2D classic.
Dave Bautista shows off his comic chops in the patchy but often funny buddy-cop movie Stuber. And the Conjuring gang are back at it when creepy doll Annabelle Comes Home.
DVD Of The Week: The Lion King
(PG) 118mins, out Monday
DISNEY’S commercial juggernaut hits all the beats you would expect from a faithful remake but the heart and wonder are mysteriously missing.
Perhaps it’s the uneasy mismatch of joviality and tragedy, which is never properly resolved, or the unavoidable air of artificiality about the entire project. Some things just work better in 2D.
It looks gorgeous, of course. This is a stunning technical accomplishment, without doubt. Set-pieces are beautifully executed and director John Favreau handles the action as well as you would expect from the chap behind Iron Man.
And yet… somehow it never quite hits the emotional heights. The darker moments work better than the comedy.
The hyenas pose a sense of genuine threat (more so than the Chiwetel Ejiofor’s underpowered Scar) and there are moments of menace young viewers might struggle with.
But the script confuses lots of talking with actual jokes, wasting the vocal talents of Seth Rogen, and the circle-of-life eco stuff rings hollow given what we’ve done to the planet since the original hit cinemas.
In a few years’ time, singing CGI lions might be the only ones we have left.
Better than Will Smith’s Aladdin remake but well short of an era-defining classic. Perhaps it will play best with those who don’t know the original.
(15) 91mins, out Monday
DAVE BAUTISTA proves once again he is far more than a poor man’s Dwayne Jonhson in his agreeably dumb mismatched-buddy cop-comedy-actioner mismash, which does just enough on multiple fronts to keep it entertaining.
He plays the hulking cop who, for reasons too banal to go into, drags Kumail Nanjani’s nerdy Uber driver Stu into his latest case. Their peculiar anti-chemistry drives the intermittent laughs.
Bautista is a winning screen presence whether playing for laughs or punching punks in the throat, while Nanjani’s intensely irritating deadpan persona grates less as the movie goes on.
It’s an odd mix and all over the place tonally. The action is competently staged and induces a few genuine winces, while there are just about enough laughs to justify the contrived set-up.
With all the constant references to Uber, it could seem horribly dated in a few years’ time. More likely, it will simply be forgotten.
Annabelle Comes Home
(15) 105mins, out Monday
A HARMLESS Conjuring sequel about the haunted doll with the drag-queen makeup.
The first 30 seconds are spent half-heartedly explaining why people don’t just leave the creepy dummy in the nearest skip.
Then it’s on to the usual franchise staples of slamming doors and knife-wielding wedding dresses. The young cast are game.
The likeable Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return for cameos as the ghostbusting Warrens, real-life “consultants of demonology and witchcraft” who take one for the team by bringing said doll to their home museum of evil objects (books of spells, detuned pianos, Nixon’s frisbee, that sort of thing).
But the focus of the supernatural shenanigans are their young daughter (Mckenna Grace) and her teenage babysitters. In fact, at times this is as much goofy teen comedy as anything.
Not remotely frightening but rather fun all the same.
(15) 100mins, out Monday on Blu-ray
IMAGINE, if you can, a far-flung future of self-driving hybrid cars, all-seeing surveillance drones and messianic tech billionaires invading our private lives. No, it’s just too difficult.
Into this wildly implausible fantasy-realm plunges Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) as the blue-collar Luddite ironically given a hi-tech implant when his life (and car) gets turned upside-down.
Marshall-Green is solid enough, not so much a poor man’s Gerard Butler as another man’s Gerard Butler.
Saw writer Leigh Whannell directs a competent if generic assembly of cyberpunk tropes with some visual flair, though the superpowered action is accidentally comedic at times.
This channels everything from The Matrix and Iron Man to Ex Machina and even The Lawnmower Man, without threatening to upgrade any of them.
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Mia and the White Lion
(12) 96mins, out Monday
THIS has a few things going for it — fantastic cinematography capturing the South African savannah; the chemistry between its the titular duo (strongly played by Daniah de Villiers and Thor the lion).
Shot over three years, we see the pair physically grow and mature alongside one another. Without this hook, the whole exercise wouldn’t be worthwhile.
Whiplash-fast editing in the first half doesn’t help, nor does a certain mean-spiritedness in the interactions between Mia and her family.
That undermines much of the potential enjoyment, while the droning score bludgeons away any nuance or subtlety.
Its message against the grim but legal canned-hunting industry in South Africa is admirable but the end product is syrupy and predictable.
As for Mia’s brother (Ryan MacLennan) being only two years older than she is… that goes far beyond suspension of disbelief.