Lions & Road Trips & Cathedrals–Oh My!

Oh my, what a weekend of fun and cuteness! My sister had her baby last Monday, and yesterday after church I arrived here at her apartment so I could help take care of the baby for 24 hours. My new little niece is ADORABLE. She’s so alert–but not so much that she won’t take her naps–and such a snuggle-muffin. The Aunt Life is a good one, y’all. I have no complaints.

In the midst of this über-cute fun, however, I also got to watch three new (for me) movies this weekend! Without further ado, here are my quick reviews for all three…

The Lion King (2019)

I saw the original The Lion King in 1994. In the theater. As a two-year-old. This was the first story I ever loved with a passion: I knew all the songs by heart, I had stuffed animals of Simba and Nala (plus a beach towel with Mufasa and Simba)–and I still have the whole movie memorized. So when I first saw the trailer for the live-action version attached to Avengers: Endgame and heard both that powerful theme and James Earl Jones’ “Remember who you are,” I actually cried.

Forget the critics and take it from a devoted fan of the original: the live-action The Lion King does not disappoint. The first half sticks pretty close to the animated film, to the point where I found myself anticipating the next line of dialogue or the next scene. The second half, however, has several fantastic twists and turns that I never expected (Scar and Sarabi, oh my gosh), and a couple of new, hilarious bits for Timon and Pumbaa that had me rolling in my seat. The music was incredible. And I actually liked Beyoncé as Nala! She has a powerhouse of a voice, that’s for sure.

In the end, however, my favorite character is Mufasa. He’s the archetypal hero I’ve always loved best–the King, the Servant-Leader, and the Ultimate Father Figure–and it’s only taken me 25 years to realize that he’s probably the one who shaped my imagination in that regard.

Soft Top Hard Shoulder (1993)

This delightful Scottish rom-com has been on my radar for quite a while, and I was finally able to watch it while babysitting my wee little niece. Written by and starring a very young Peter Capaldi, this is the story of Gavin, a down-on-his-luck artist who’s promised a massive inheritance IF he comes home to Glasgow for his father’s birthday party. Along the way he (reluctantly) picks up a feisty, optimistic hitchhiker named Yvonne, who becomes not only a badly-needed companion on this tumultuous journey, but the voice of his conscience as well.

With the exception of some brief strong language, this is a charming film that reminds me of Leap Year. But it’s Leap Year with a role reversal: the guy is the one who needs to loosen up and quit thinking about himself and his own agenda for once, while it’s the girl who encourages him, in the immortal words of Matthew Goode, to “Throw it in t’ wash, darlin’–it’ll be grand.” Plus, this is Scotland, not Ireland, complete with what I’m quickly recognizing as Scotland’s wry, quirky, self-deprecating humor.

As for the stars, they are DARLING. Gavin and Yvonne are hilariously mismatched: he’s basically a frantic, micromanaging Rabbit–which is quite appropriate, if you’ve seen Christopher Robin–while she’s a happy-go-lucky Pooh Bear. But the sparkling dynamic and eventual understanding between them becomes even more poignant when you remember that this movie is semi-autobiographical, and that Peter Capaldi wrote the story with himself and his own wife in mind.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1996)

I love Notre-Dame; therefore I must post THIS iconic shot.

This is one of those Disney movies I never saw as a child, but my sister saw it last year and loved it, so we watched it while minding the baby together. GUYS. It is so good!!! I wouldn’t say it’s for very small children, and you’d probably need to have a preliminary discussion with your kids about Hail Marys and Gypsy fortune-telling–but overall, this movie is startlingly compelling.

The symbolism of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is ON POINT. Frollo is the corrupt government official who refuses to respect the sanctuary and holiness of the Church; Quasimodo and Esmerelda are the social outcasts who the true Church will never deny; Phoebus is the noble layman who leads the people in righteous revolt when the government attacks the Church. Notre-Dame itself represents all that is good and true and beautiful in the world. Needless to say, that symbol is all the more powerful since the Good Friday fire earlier this year.

Beautiful music, a heartwarming story, and a breathtakingly detailed animated portrayal of the greatest Cathedral of Paris–this is Disney magic at its finest and most thought-provoking.

7 thoughts on “Lions & Road Trips & Cathedrals–Oh My!

  1. I grew up on the original Lion King as a tiny thing, and I still have my Simba blanket. But I think my mom got rid of the film because she thought it was too scary (even though I know I watched it over and over, I guess she didn’t until some of my siblings came along . . . or maybe I and those nearest in age to me watched it TOO much). Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen in 20 years, or more maybe, even though we own it again. I loved Jungle Book, but could barely watch the first “live action” one. Live action animal movies just kill me. And that version wasn’t even the scariest of the two “live action” ones. So, I was going to pass on that. And Dumbo (also grew up as tiny thing on that one and haven’t seen in 20 years).

    I’ve not ever seen Hunchback of Notre Dame and only recently heard one of the songs (Hellfire. . . wow, amazing and disturbing song and was that movie marketed to kids? Eeeep).

    Now, Soft Top Hard Shoulder sounds absolutely delightful, I adore Leap Year, and was wanting something new and light and funny to try. I can’t find it on Prime or Netflix though, how did you watch it?


    1. I would encourage you to give the new Lion King a chance, especially if it’s been 20+ years since you saw the animated version. It’s really very beautiful–gorgeous cinematography, good voice actors, incredible music. I’d actually like to see the new Dumbo; that trailer made me cry, too! I actually told my mom, “I want to see that, but I can’t watch it in the theater because I’d cry my eyes out for ‘Baby Mine’!”

      “Hellfire” was QUITE a song! Not for children, no indeedy–and yet a villainous power-monger who blames an innocent woman for his own lust is hardly an uncommon phenomenon in this day and age. I kinda watched that scene with raised eyebrows and merely let out a contemptuous “HMMMPH!” at the end 😛 Overall, though, it’s a great movie! And Frollo definitely gets his just desserts.

      Hehehe…I watched Soft Top Hard Shoulder on YouTube 😛 I think it may be available on Vimeo, too, but unfortunately that’s about it.


  2. Hunchback of Notre Dame is my favorite Disney musical, hands down. I am Catholic, so Notre Dame and the Virgin Mary are both suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper important to me, and I just absolutely LOVE what the writers did with the symbolism of both. It is such a spiritually rich experience. And the music!!!!

    *hums* “God help the outcasts . . . children of God . . .”


    1. YES, THE MUSIC!!! The main theme—with the bells and the choir—gave me goosebumps! So did the sight of Notre-Dame, to be honest. It was good to see it in all its glory, even in animated form. When Quasimodo is leaping from one end of the cathedral to the other, scaling the spire and sliding down the roof—and then when Esmeralda is gazing up at the Rose Window—I was absolutely entranced.


  3. I’ve been low-key wanting to watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame for awhile, so now I’m really looking forward to doing that sometime!! (And obviously reading the book at some point, probably after I finally get around to finishing the entirety of Les Miserables. Or, as I usually refer to it, “The Brick”. 😄)

    Actually… *lowers voice* *glances around nervously* I’ve never seen the original Lion King… 😶
    Idk why exactly, I was just never really introduced to many of the Disney films most of my friends loved when I younger… I skipped straight into The Chronicles of Narnia/Star Wars/The NeverEnding Story. Yeah, I was *that kid* at all the homeschool group meet-ups. 😂

    I’ve only heard of Soft Top Hard Shoulder fairly recently, since becoming a Whovian and burying myself in the “culture” of that fandom. But it sounds like a sweet film, and that Scottish brand of humor you mentioned is absolutely my style! 😁

    Now I’m curious: do your siblings share your love for DW and various other semi-obscure British/European (I’m still getting used to all the proper terms and labels!) shows/films/things?
    Mine will watch DW with me, and after seeing the most recent film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, my sister developed a love for Agatha Christie novels. And obviously they’re big fans of Narnia and LOTR. But for the most part, they aren’t nearly as anglophilic as myself (they told me recently that they’d be fine taking a trip to Europe with me if we visit “cool places”, but they do not want to accompany me on a visit Oxford, as it would be too boring and I would be too nerdy about everything. 😂)


    1. AHHH, The Brick is so good!!! Once you get past long dissertations on the Battle of Waterloo and the Parisian sewers, it’s actually a really engaging book with a surprisingly good sense of humor, in spite of the rather grim title.

      (*grins*) I think you would really like Soft Top Hard Shoulder. Gavin is basically a younger, more hyper, more artistic version of the Twelfth Doctor—and Yvonne is this cheerful little fairy who’s constantly telling him, in the cutest Scottish accent, “DON’T GET IN A STATE—YOU’RE ALWAYS GETTIN’ IN A STATE!” There are a few bad words, but they’re all spoken in these super-thick brogues, it often took me a second to realize that THAT was what they said 😅

      Hmm…well, my mom is DEFINITELY an Anglophile. She loves Doctor Who and pretty much all the other British shows/and styles and history that I love, too. And one of my sisters is very much a “Europe-phile”: she enjoys Doctor Who and Royal history, but she’s also a little more on the French side as far as her personal style and her culinary interests are concerned (which means it’s always awesome when she cooks 😉). The rest of my siblings kindly put up with my Anglo obsessions, haha. And believe me, I’m either indifferent or obsessed—there is very little in between 😂


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