With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: "The Lion King 3D".
Oh wow, "The Lion King" is back! First it was a smash movie. Then it was a smash Broadway musical. Now it's a smash cynical grab at the just-now-petering-out 3D re-release trend! And it's coming out Oct. 5 on Blu-ray. NICE. But how do you know if it's appropriate to take your little ones to see little lion cub Simba become a real man, or whatever the lion equivalent of a real man is? After all, it's probably been a long time since you've seen this beloved animated classic. Here are some factors you need to consider.
The "Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?" Factor: Thankfully, "The Lion King 3D" passes this test with flying colors. It's not like being dragged by your kid to see "Yogi Bear" and spending all 67 minutes of that movie trying to send text messages with your hand shielded by a popcorn bucket. This is still a wonderful movie from start to finish, and now that you're older, you can appreciate even more the brilliance of its artwork (enhanced this time by the whole 3D thing). "The Lion King" now works not only as a great piece of entertainment, but also as a museum piece of sorts. This was the last great 2D animated blockbuster. While it's in "3D" now, it's still very much animated in that classical hand-drawn style that died once Pixar took over. So you can enjoy it on many different levels. Again, much more so than "Yogi Bear."
The Dead Parent Factor: Oh, it wouldn't be a good Disney movie without a dead parent, and "The Lion King 3D" features a whopper, with Simba's dad getting got by his own brother in the middle of a wildebeest stampede. Watch it here if you can tolerate it. It's DEVASTATING. Not only do you see Mufasa fall to his death, but then you have little Simba walking around afterwards calling out for him, praying he's alive but fearing the worst. And that is just... (bursts into tears). Your infant won't notice any of this because it's an infant and its eyes don't even work yet. But movies like this often serve to introduce four and five-year-olds to the idea of death, and to the idea that YOU will leave them forever one day. It's healthy for kids to work this stuff out. But holy smokes, that is not the relaxing day at the movies I had in mind.
The Music Factor: As musicals go, "The Lion King" has better tunes than most. But that doesn't mean you won't resent your child wanting to hear "Hakuna Matata" thirty times in a row. And that song is a LIE. You shouldn't NOT worry. Only slackers and potheads don't worry about anything. Don't you children know there are WARS going on? You can't just relax in a hammock and think it'll all go away!
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: None. Because you can show an American audience an emotionally wrenching scene of parental death, but heaven forbid you slip a boobie joke in there.
Age Range: Five and up. There are scary moments to "The Lion King," and those deeper notions of death and despair are probably best shielded from kids too young to express their feelings about it. But kindergarteners on up will be fine with it. They'll probably even lend you their hankie during the cloud ghost scene.
Drew Magary is not a trained child psychologist, just a humble father of two trying to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of pop culture.