No disrespect to Beyoncé, but there’s a clear standout performance in Disney’s The Lion King remake, and it’s not the iconic singer. After watching the 2019 update to the classic animated film, all you’ll be able to talk about and think about is Billy Eichner’s Timon.
Along with Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Eichner completely steals the show. The buddy comedy routine between the meerkat and the warthog have always been a highlight of The Lion King, and Rogen plays Pumbaa pretty much the same as the 1994 animated character (voiced by Ernie Sabella). But Eichner takes his version of Timon to new heights (figuratively). He infuses the vain, scheming meerkat with a sweeter, more clueless undertone, making him lovable, whereas Nathan Lane’s excellent original version always had more of a malicious feel to him. This new iteration is also a little more anxiety-ridden, alert, and energetic, which makes the Timon feel more real with his jerky movements and wide, unblinking eyes.
But all that pales in comparison to the way that Eichner delivers every single one of his lines. The actor and comedian’s signature shouting is on full display here, which is a hilarious contrast to Timon’s small size (which is even funnier juxtaposed with his larger warthog BFF). His inflection of attitude is funny without being mean, and he’s at peak wittiness.
Since Eichner improvised many of his lines that made it into the movie, let’s celebrate his work by looking back on all the best quotes, from the hilarious to the sweet to the all-too-real.
“Now his problems are my problems?”
When Timon and Pumbaa first come across Simba (Donald Glover) starving in the desert, the morose lion cub explains everything bad that led him to where he is now as Pumbaa listens. Timon is not as eager to hear this kid’s sad story.
“So… how are you, in as few words as possible?”
Again, Timon is not the best shoulder to cry on when times get tough.
“I was always here for you. I resent that.”
During “Hakuna Matata,” Pumbaa tells his story of never having any friends because of his flatulence problem, but Timon is quick to remind him that he wasn’t totally alone. How rude for Pumbaa to just erase Timon from the narrative!
“No, I wasn’t; you disgust me.”
Pumbaa actually sings the word “farted” in the new “Hakuna Matata” because Timon never cuts in to stop him. When Pumbaa asks if Timon was ever going to interrupt (like he does in the original), the meerkat’s sassy reply somehow overshadows the incredible moment of Rogen shouting “farted” joyously. Impressive, to say the least.
“Oh, now he’s riffing, Pumbaa…”
We may have loved Glover’s vocal runs at the end of “Hakuna Matata,” but Timon has no patience for a show-off.
“Let me make this simple: Life is meaningless.”
Eichner’s 2019 version of Timon’s life philosophy is a little more existential dread than lazy stoner, and honestly it makes sense.
“Lady, you’ve got your lions crossed.”
Timon’s not above a little pun action when talking with Nala (Beyoncé).
“Talk about a fixer-upper. I think you went heavy on the carcass.”
Timon’s assessment of the barren, skeleton-ridden Pride Rock is pretty spot-on. Can’t you just imagine him joining the Queer Eye Fab Five?
“Listen, I am happy to admit when Pumbaa’s wrong.”
Just as easily as Timon tries to take credit for Pumbaa’s ideas, he’s also quick to blame Pumbaa for when his own ideas don’t pan out. Some things never change!
“Ma chère mademoiselle, we are proud to present… your dinner. Be. Our. Gue — ahhhh!”
Before Timon can finish performing this Beauty and the Beast Easter egg, the hyenas chase him and Pumbaa off. Bummer.
“You feel better, Pumbaa? You got that out of your system?”
Timon addressing Pumbaa after he goes on a rampage attacking the hyenas who bullied him about his weight is just perfect, because while it could have been condescending, Eichner infuses a consoling tone into the line. It’s more supporting a friend in need than anything.
The Lion King is in theaters now.