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)
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.