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Published: 2005-12-12 - 00:05:00
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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Review

By Joe Lozito

"Lion" Lacks Bite

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", the latest attempt to bring C.S. Lewis' beloved Christian allegory to the screen suffers the same fate as the first Harry Potter adaptation - it's high on reverence but ironically low on magic.

For those who don't know the story, the film follows the four Pevensie children as they walk into the wardrobe of the mysterious Professor Kirke (a nearly unrecognizable Jim Broadbent) and land themselves smack in the middle of a war between the icy White Witch and the lion-god Aslan in the wondrous realm of Narnia.

The children, each more precocious than the last, are played with varying degrees of skill by Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell and William Moseley. Ms. Henley plays Lucy, the youngest and therefore owner of all the best lines. Mr. Keynes pouts his way through the role of Edmund the troublemaker and the one most destined for therapy. Susan, the character with the least to do, is played by Ms. Popplewell who seems to have stolen Scarlett Johansson's lips for the role. William Moseley is the most promising of the lot as eldest son Peter. Mr. Moseley's more than passing resemblance to a young Heath Ledger serves him well in the role of the boy who would be King.

The plot revolves, as one would expect, around the struggle to reign over the kingdom of Narnia and, after a few small deceptions, everyone becomes pretty clear on who's good and who's not (hint: the Witch is bad). Due to the film's apparent need to deliver on a PG rating, the wonderful Tilda Swinton is startlingly defanged as the White Witch; she spends a great deal of time looking put-out and very little time doing anything about it. The film's preciousness reaches critical mass when they bump into a certain bearded, gift-toting old man driving a sleigh.

Despite all that, though, "Narnia" is certainly a feast for the eyes; once the story moves to Narnia, the film is never dull to look at. One by one the children encounter some of the most astounding animated animals ever put on screen. Particularly jaw-dropping are the near-flawless, but unfortunately-named, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Director Andrew Adamson (the "Shrek" films) also delivers the goods in the climactic battle scenes as well as a particularly harrowing opening air raid over London.

Regardless, Lewis fans are sure to be pleased. While the film never achieves the gravity of the "Lord of the Rings" movies, there is the potential that what is sure to become a lucrative franchise may one day reach the maturity of the recent "Harry Potter" installments.

What did you think?

Movie title The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Release year 2005
MPAA Rating PG
Our rating
Summary The C.S. Lewis classic is given a reverent but toothless adaptation along the lines of the first 'Harry Potter' film. Let's hope this would-be franchise matures as well as that one.
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