Tales of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
C. S. Lewis wrote his Narnia books when J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Ring trilogy; the men were Oxford professor friends. Lewis loved unrequitedly loved Tolkeins world. His otherworld was just next door. A bookish man, Lewis didn't marry until nearly 60, yet created children full of life and pluck.
As the movie opens, the Pevensie family's four children leave 1940s' London for a country house safe from Nazi air raids. At hide-&-seek, Lucy (Henley), the youngest, hides in a wardrobe that opens onto a snowy land, where she meets Mr. Tumnus (McAvoy), a faun.
In the Narnia mythics, the children solve problems, helped by Aslan the Lion. Lucy's adventures, alone, then with Edmund and the older Peter and Susan, happen in a world similar to ours. A witch keeps Narnia frigid for a century; under her rule, Tumnus must give Lucy to her, but in his mercy, Lucy goes home via the wardrobe. Her siblings don't believe her tale. Edmund (Keynes) follows her into the wardrobe that night; the White Witch grabs him, offering to make him a prince.
But Peter (Moseley) and Susan (Popplewell) only believe when all four tumble into Narnia and meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (voices by Winstone and French), who invite them to their cozy home, and explain the Narnia situation, just before wolves attack.
Edmund has gone off alone; the witch takes him hostage. The Beavers hope Aslan (voice by Neeson) will save him. He does, but must die for Edmund's sins. With six more books in the Narnia chronicles, however, the end of this movie is not THE End.
Events happen on a human scale, and the children's characters, not wizards', affect the outcomes. Even the battle, influenced by Lewis' views about the first two world wars, is manageable.
Directed by Andrew Adamson, the film has humor, action, and charm, even in scary scenes. Lewis said in 1959 that he didn't want the Narnia books filmed because he feared the animals would "turn into buffoonery or nightmare." He might be forgiven for thinking of an actor in a lion suit, or of puppets.
This movies' effects are skillful; the animals look as real as other characters. Just on the dividing line of family films and action films, this one is both charming and scary. Some scenes push the edge of the PG envelope. But it's a remarkably satisfying family film, one apt to inspire fine conversations.
Ann Peacock, Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, based on the nove
Tilda Swinton, William Moseley, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell; voices of
Family movies of 2005; C.S. Lewis; Narnia
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