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THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE (PG) (2005)

Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media

Official Site

Director: Andrew Adamson

Producers: Mark Johnson, Philip Steuer

Written by: Ann Peacock and Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely; based on the book by C.S. Lewis

Cast: Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Jim Broadbent; the voices of Ray Winstone, Liam Neeson, Rupert Everett

Rating:


Sorry readers, but I just don’t see where the controversy is here.

The story The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe has always been close to my heart—it was the first of the C.S. Lewis series, The Chronicles of Narnia, to be published. My youth was spent reading classics like these, along with stories by Roald Dahl, Bruce Coville, and John R. Erikson. In junior high and high school, I discovered Frank Herbert, Kevin Anderson, Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card, Jack McKinney, and of course J.R.R. Tolkien. Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Schenkkan would say, “These were the stars of his firmament.”

The cinematic successes of other fantasy literature such as Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter has opened the door to allow The Chronicles Of Narnia to be adapted for the big time for the first time ever—although Wardrobe has been previously adapted as an animated feature and a BBC miniseries.

The Pevensie children—Lucy (Henley), Peter (Moseley), Susan (Popplewell), and Edmund (Keynes)—are ripped away from their family after the start of WWII. Their father is away at war and the children are separated from their mother. They are forced to live in the English countryside with Professor Kirke (Broadbent) and his uptight caretaker, Mrs. MacReady (Hawthorne). It is there that Lucy discovers a mystical wardrobe that transports her to the land of Narnia where she meets a fawn, Mr. Tumnus (McAvoy, formerly Leto Atreides in “Children Of Dune”). She and her siblings get caught up in a conflict in which they can finally end the tyrannical oppression of the evil White Queen Jadis (Swinton) over people like Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. The children want to free Narnia with the help of the mystical lion, Aslan (Neeson). Good vs. evil, pretty black-and-white. It’s a fairy tale though, so this is how it should be.

Wardrobe captured for me, more than anything else, those feelings in the days of my wayward youth when I’d go to magical lands, fight monsters, and be a hero… unless my fellow toddlers at the Jewish Community Center pre-school coerced me into being Cobra Commander. It’s truly wondrous in that sense.

Now I’m sure you can talk about the allegory of Narnia and Christianity until you are blue in the face. But in the end, does that really make the story any less compelling? Edmund has always been a close character to me—a young boy who feels like a shadow of his older brother and wants to be acknowledged. He easily falls under the thrall of the White Queen, betraying his siblings and the beings of Narnia.

The performances by the newcomers playing the Pevensie children are all very solid—especially Henley’s innocent and uncorrupted Lucy, not an easy role for any pre-teen to take on. Keynes’ Edmund is exactly as he should be. Moseley’s Peter and Popplewell’s Susan, as the older children, seem to properly reflect the loss of innocence and faith that sometimes comes about with age.

Swinton’s Queen Jadis is deliciously and evilly regal and at times demonic. She looks like she could be an evil creature who would turn people into stone and make Turkish delight out of snow. And hey… she drives a chariot hauled by polar bears.

The physical production and props for the movie were handled by New Zealand’s WETA Workshop. They more than prove why they are the new measuring stick in the business. The other CG-based characters handled by ILM, Sony Digital, and various other FX houses (like the Beavers and Aslan) are all brilliantly done and work fine without upstaging the human and live actors—unlike another series of movies that just had a trilogy-ending sequel earlier this year.

Is this a faithful adaptation of the book and story? Yes. Is the stone tablet scene intact? Indeed, and it’s just as dramatic, tragic, and ultimately amazing as I always imagined it would be. Is it appropriate for kids? It’s really at your discretion. There are certainly some rather intense moments, but everything else, including the battle scenes, is mostly on the tame side. This really is a youth-oriented fable so it’s very innocent and romantic rather than risqué, and less edgy than Lord of the Rings. But remember—not being risqué and edgy is not always a bad thing.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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