Review by Mark Walters


 Just about anyone around my age read the book as a kid.  Some may have even read it for school.  With the amazing popularity of THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, Hollywood was desperate to find the next book or book series to bring to the big screen.  The natural choice became THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.  Director Andrew Adamson, who had tremendous success with the SHREK films, won the job to direct.  It's almost being marketed as a "LORD OF THE RINGS for kids", and with good reason.

The film begins during World War II in Europe.  After a frightening bombing run hitting close to their home, the Pevensie kids are put on a train by their mother to be taken in by a home that hosts evacuees.  The youngest child, Lucy (Georgie Henley), has the hardest time saying goodbye.  Her brother Edmund (Skandar Keynes) feels their mother is wrong for what she's doing, and if their father had been there this never would've happened, plus he feels his siblings are an overbearing burden.  Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) is consistently overcautious and negative about everything, while Peter (William Moseley) wants to become a father figure to the group.  They are picked up by Mrs. MacReady (Elizabeth Hawthorne), a rather strict housekeeper, who takes them to a large house owned by the reclusive Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent).  Things look rather boring and bleak in their new surroundings, and the kids pass their time playing games like hide and seek.  During one of these moments, Lucy stumbles upon a large ornate wardrobe, which she chooses to hide in.  Stepping further back between the fur coats inside she falls into a snow covered forest.  Apparently there's an entire world inside the wardrobe called Narnia, filled with magical creatures and exotic locations.  Lucy quickly meets a half-man half-fawn named Mr. Tumnus.  The cowardly fawn takes her home for tea, and explains that there is an evil witch who controls Narnia, and that she demands all humans be brought to her immediately.  Hoping to save Lucy, Tumnus guides her back to where she arrived, and warns her to stay away from Narnia.  Once Lucy returns, she tries to tell the other kids what she found.  But they don't believe her, chalking it up to a young child's imagination.  Soon Edmund finds the entrance, and upon arriving in Narnia is met by the aforementioned witch.  Not knowing the details, Edmund falls for her charm, and she carefully manipulates him into bringing his siblings to her.  It isn't long before the entire group of kids wind up in Narnia.  They're met by a talking beaver, who explains the dangers of this mysterious world.  He also speaks of a king named Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), who plans to fight the witch.  It seems the kids' arrival is part of a prophecy.  But when Edmund betrays his family and heads to the witch's lair, Peter, Susan and Lucy must go to Aslan for help.  Now they must decide what matters most, and whether or not they have the courage to stay and fight.

 This is one of those films that makes you wish you were a kid again.  Where THE LORD OF THE RINGS thrilled adults, this film will reach out to kids effectively, and become one of those movies they'll want to watch over and over again.  The first hour is a bit slow, establishing the main characters, and they're personal feelings.  But once the children arrive together in Narnia, things get pretty good.  The child actors are fairly solid.  Skandar Keynes and Anna Popplewell are particularly good, especially Skander, who despite his lack of prior acting experience, comes across very convincing.  Georgie Henley has that necessary wide-eyed look about her that works well in the scenes of wonderment, though I'm sure it was somewhat difficult for someone so young to appropriately convey all the emotions and reactions required in a film like this.  Perhaps the least impressive was William Moseley, who despite his leader role just never seemed completely right in certain scenes.  Maybe it's his youth, or maybe it's that he's trying to hard to be serious, but there was something that never quite seemed to click acting-wise with him.  Tilda Swinton is pretty intimidating as the evil Queen, despite her occasionally obvious bad makeup.  I think kids will love to hate her, so she's successful in that regard. But hey, that's not the reason you go to see a movie like this.  It's the special effects, and man oh man, they don't disappoint.  Every animal, and I mean EVERY animal, in this movie talks.  The CGI effects are stunning, particularly with Aslan the lion.  We may still be several years away from CGI actors taking over, but after seeing the effects used for this film, animal actors may soon be out of a job.

 The whole movie builds up to a big climactic battle between the witch's army and Aslan's army.  It takes almost two whole hours before that battle begins, and it doesn't last incredibly long, but boy is it good.  Director Andrew Adamson has proven himself to be more than just a special effects master.  The man knows how to create some serious emotion using those effects, and directs the actors like he's been doing it for years.  Is he the next Peter Jackson?  Maybe, though he started bigger and better than Jackson did, so wanting to build from here may be a tad more difficult.  I'm definitely interested to see what he can produce next.  There are moments in this film where I honestly got welled up, all the time thinking to myself, "These aren't even real animals!!"  That's the sign of an effective film.  I think it's safe to say this movie will do well, and Disney and Walden Media will be making the six sequels they hoped for.  The question is, like HARRY POTTER, can we continue to watch these kids on the big screen without it seeming weird the older they get?  I guess if they effects stay consistent, none of that will matter.  I miss my youth.... score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE a 9.

Visit the official Disney THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE website by clicking here.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
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