I ventured to Cherokee, North Carolina to do some gambling. When that did not work out I decided to go see the new Lion King at the fine Cherokee Phoenix Theater. The entire first row of parking spaces nearest the door were reserved for “Tribal Elders,” which should give you an idea of where I was.
This was no IMAX theater, but it was suitable for a one-off visit by a gambler escaping a bad run. The movie ticket cost $5 and the popcorn cost $3. I almost asked the kid at the concession stand who was president just to make sure I had not stepped through some sort of time warp.
I do not attend many movies these days because the home experience is so much better. The Lion King is a children’s movie so my standards for the viewing public are going to be more relaxed. I expected there to be many children in the theater and there were and they were great. They made the movie much better by singing along with the songs and offering adorable commentary like, “There’s Pumbaa!”
Before the movie began, I left my seat to get some popcorn and came back to find that a family of four (dad, mom and a little boy and girl) had taken some seats in my row, including mine. The theater was relatively empty so I moved to the same seat one row behind them.
Let’s call this family the “White” family because it seems appropriate and they could very well be distant cousins of the famed Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. If you have not seen that documentary, picture Jed Clampett with a meth habit. That is not a fair description of this family but it is a fair description of the “Wonderful” Whites. I am sure these Whites are from the better, sober wing of the family that moved south. They did, however, emit a unique scent that can only be described as “early man.” Perhaps that is a new one from Calvin Klein?
The Whites were fine for the first little while we were sitting together waiting for the movie to begin. We waited longer than usual for the movie to start because someone in the theater forgot to “flick” the movie on (I’m guessing that is their technical term). I think the movie started about fifteen minutes past its scheduled time. During the delay the Whites were restless. All that was on the screen was a still ad for Chevrolet that read, “Enjoy the Show,” along with some terrible filler music. “Deddy” White (that’s what they called him) saw the delay as his opportunity to hit the concession stand. Maw White didn’t want Deddy to go but he went anyway. About three minutes after he left, Maw told the little girl to go get her father because she was concerned Deddy was going to “miss the whole first part.” The Chevy sign was still on the screen so I think Deddy was safe, but the little girl obeyed Maw and went after him.
She came back about a minute later and told Maw, “All he wanted was some stupid peanut M&Ms.” Obviously this little girl has never had peanut M&Ms.
Meanwhile, the delay continued and finally a very large woman sitting behind me said, “I’m going out,” and went to complain to the manager. She had purple hair that I believe she had dyed at the beauty salon in Chernobyl because it appeared to glow. She was so large that she had to walk down the stairs sideways with both hands on the railing. I am thankful she went out because otherwise the movie may never have started. After the Purple Lady left, Deddy came back to his seat empty handed.
Irritated because he did not get any peanut M&Ms, he got in Maw’s face and said, “Do you know where I was when she come out and got me? One person away from being next!” He sat down in a huff and mumbled something I could not hear. Whatever he mumbled set Maw off and she got up and said, “Then I’ll go get your stupid peanut M&Ms!” She walked out just as the Purple Lady was making the long sideways trek back to her seat. When she sat down, she said to whoever she was with, “I was right, they forgot to flick it on.”
Thanks to the Purple Lady, the movie began just as Maw returned from the concession stand. The whiff of molten yellow nacho cheese for sale at concessions must have set Maw’s stomach to grumbling because she came back with a lot more than stupid peanut M&Ms. She also purchased two giant Cokes (no way these folks drink anything diet), a bucket of popcorn and some nachos with a few extra helpings of golden cheese. The scent of the cheese helped to mask the “early man” smell but it also lingered in the theater for the entire movie like an essential oil. Just as Rafiki climbed Pride Rock to see the new king, a feeding frenzy ensued amongst the White family. Popcorn was flying everywhere as were squeaks from the straws in the Cokes as the family of four jockeyed for the two drinks. Deddy was now quiet and content because he finally got his M&Ms.
The frenzy eventually subsided and the Whites settled in to watch the rest of the movie. Just as the elephant graveyard scene was beginning, three more members of the White party arrived. I noticed that the four people were spread out over six seats, but I thought that was incase they decided to order some more cheese. No, the extra two seats were for this newly arrived young couple… and their dog. He wore glasses and had some strands of hair pulled back on the top of his head that were fixed into a bun. The rest of his head around the strands of hair was shaved. She wore glasses and had curly hair that was dyed pink, but it did not glow. The dog was a small white terrier-like mutt. I assumed it was their support dog. He ended up being the best behaved member of the family, dutifully watching the movie from the Pink Lady’s lap and only eating the popcorn when it was passed to him. Drinking the Coke was harder for him because of the straw, but he was able to get a few licks in.
After the movie was on for about twenty minutes, it became apparent to the crowd that it was not formatted to fit the screen properly. A few animal feet were cut out of the picture and Pride Rock looked more like Pride Pebble. I was prepared to watch it like this because I worried that whoever flicked it on was not capable of fixing the picture or they would have done so in the first place. Well, you know who was not prepared to accept this flaw? The Purple Lady. She began her trek to the manager once again and sure enough got it fixed. She really was the savior of the movie and deserves a lot more respect than I have given her in these pages.
Let me take a minute and talk about the movie itself. I thought it was unbelievable that not one thing depicted was real. Pretty soon movies are not going to require actors. The only thing that was not realistic was the animals’ genitalia; it did not exist. An odd choice considering the main theme of the movie is “the circle of life.” It is a Disney movie after all and I understand why they did not include giant lion balls in their otherwise amazing CGI world. The movie perhaps mirrored the original too much and lost something that made the original so good, but I am no movie critic. Like I said, all the children sang along with the songs and laughed at the funny parts and it looked incredible. Therefore, it was a success. I think I enjoyed watching the Whites more than the movie itself, but I am not Disney’s intended audience. Definitely go see it.
The Whites watched the rest of the movie relatively uneventfully. The little girl polished off what was left of the cheese with her fingers, licking each one loudly in case any of the cheese was hidden behind a nail. She stopped short of licking the plastic container because by then I believe she was full.
Overall, I had an enjoyable experience at the new Lion King sitting behind the White family. In the past perhaps I would have let the Whites ruin my evening. Now, I treated them as a sort of bonus feature. Hopefully no one was bothered by the glow of my phone as I took notes for this post. The Whites seemed to really enjoy the film and their night out together. I hope the dog drove them all home safely.
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