- The best part of the Lion King remake.
- The Hustlers trailer is so good.
- Still crying after these two TV episodes.
- Julia Roberts’ epic Emmy snub.
- Very important Helen Hunt news.
Hell hath no fury like a millennial whose nostalgia is under attack, hence the polarizing reaction to the hyper-realistic remake of The Lion King, which is finally in theaters. I get it. The original Lion King is the best.
Oh, I loved this movie. I would get so upset when Mufasa died that, for viewings 23 through 450 as a child, I would leave the room before the wildebeest stampede and only return when Simba meets Timon and Pumba. As I got older, I appreciated how beautiful the animation was, and impressively calibrated the story and tone. Older yet, I would grapple with the realization that I was sexually attracted to Scar. (Greenlight The Lion Zaddy spinoff, you cowards.)
There’s a lot that’s great and a lot that is VERY MUCH NOT GREAT AT ALL about the new Lion King. The technology used to animate these hyper-realistic animals is astounding, set against some of the most gorgeous CGI scenery I’ve ever seen. The curse of deepfake Simba, Nala, and the gang, however, is that their emoting is nearly non-existent, making this new version of the Lion King a rather hollow experience—something disappointing given how much our nostalgia for the original is rooted in its intensity of emotion.
But this is a long preamble to selling you on the biggest reason to see The Lion King remake this weekend, and that is Billy Eichner’s voice performance as Timon. Listen, I write in hyperbole a lot. But I am not exaggerating when I say that Eichner is delivering one of the funniest voice performances ever in this movie.
Yes, I know: Robin Williams as Genie, Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella de Vil, Pat Carroll as Ursula. (Hell, Jeremy Irons as Scar.) Eichner is that good.
His take on the meerkat who befriends Simba while in exile is both an appropriate homage to Nathan Lane’s theatrically neurotic original Timon, while still entirely his own. Eichner both dials up Timon’s neuroticism while shading it with a heavy weariness, the kind of character whose incessant nags and complaints would be narcissism if not grounded by an endearing delusion and myopia about his world—a world in which there is barely enough room to worry about anything but himself.
“How are you,” he asks Simba, “in as few words as possible?” There’s gravitas there, too, with Timon and Pumba integral to the show’s central moral quandary: animated existentialism. Timon’s response to Simba’s positing about the “circle of life”? It’s more a “meaningless line of indifference.”
Timon’s playfulness still translates, of course. Partnering Eichner with Seth Rogen as Pumba is a stroke of casting genius; together they riff with such delightful familiarity and comic ease that a world of grub, isolation, and Hakuna Matata has never been more alluring. The actors recorded together—a rarity for animation—and improv’d a lot of dialogue, making their scenes the ones in which the script differs the most from the original.
It’s a showcase for Eichner’s acting ability, too. This is not a comedian sprinting through New York barking pop culture questions to strangers on Billy on the Street. It’s a soulful, warmer, though still hilarious, meerkat. What I’m saying is, Beyoncé who? This is Billy Eichner’s movie.
I, for one, have never stopped screaming about how Jennifer Lopez is one of our best movie stars. (Being a Movie Star is not as common a talent as you might be led to believe!) Y’all dismissed The Boy Next Door and Second Act because of how shamelessly they leaned into their respective batshit genres, but that’s precisely why each is its own stroke of brilliance. (I will fight anyone on this. I will lose, on account of not having actual muscles. But the effort will be noble and symbolically significant.)
In any case, they released the trailer for Hustlers this week (watch it here), and now everyone is yaaas-ing all over J. Lo as if they didn’t leave me as the cheese standing alone all these past years.
The movie stars the most wonderfully random group of women—Constance Wu, Cardi B, Keke Palmer, Lizzo, and Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart—as strippers who con Wall Street douchebags out of their money. The trailer is crazy good, and we deserve to be this excited for the movie.
Most importantly, the film is based on an exquisitely reported, fascinating New York magazine article written by journalist Jessica Pressler, who is getting deserved major billing in the trailer. Yes! To! This! Pay attention to what great reporting can do. It can save the world and bring us a movie starring Cardi B. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Jennifer Lopez in a g-string is going to save journalism.
The two best dramas airing on television at this very moment are FX’s Pose, about New York’s underground ballroom scene and AIDS crisis at the cusp of the ’90s, and HBO’s Years and Years, which flashes forward into the near future to depict how Trumpian politics, global extremism, and racist xenophobia in the developed world will all but ravage society.
In a traumatizing coincidence, this past week both series also aired two of the most emotionally devastating episodes of television I’ve seen in years. I don’t want to spoil what happens in either episode, only to say that the series are each so brilliantly written that the events would have been heartbreaking regardless. Each happens to speak powerfully to extremely urgent crises of humanity we are facing today—even if one of the dramas is set in the past and the other in the future.
I can’t recommend these shows enough, even if it means setting you up for weeks of spontaneously bursting into tears after seeing these episodes.
I’m still reeling over the fact that the Emmy nominations are actually good. (I wrote about them here. Please read. Remember our little chat about page views?) But there were still some major snubs, perhaps none as major as Julia Roberts for her work in Amazon’s Homecoming. Her reaction, however, is award-worthy on its own.
You can have your griping about how and where you’re going to be able to watch Friends and The Office. I’ll be too busy bingeing all seven seasons and 164 episodes of Mad About You, the Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt sitcom from NBC’s Must See TV heyday that, it was just announced, will be available on Spectrum starting August 1.
I love this show, the Buchmans, and their comedic unpleasantness. I loved the Mad About You remake when it was called Catastrophe, and I’m excited to see the limited-series revival Spectrum is planning to launch later this year, too. Here’s hoping the entire supporting cast returns. The Richard Kind renaissance is the only renaissance I’m here for.
What to watch this week:
The Lion King: As if you weren’t going to see it anyway.
Queer Eye: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Netflix Edition.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: This show drives me crazy, but the new season does include an interview with Eddie Murphy.
What to skip this week:
Another Life: There is a definite sci-fi-obsessed audience for this show, and that is very much not me.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: But again, this show drives me crazy.