241 – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a magnificent movie, a paradoxically quick epic that doesn’t rely on the viewers’ being familiar with the source material. It’s about four young London siblings who are sent away from home after the Blitz to live with relatives in the country, and who stumble upon an amazing new world entered through the back of an old closet.

Anyone who’s read C. S. Lewis’s books will instantly fall for the elegant way this story is told, from the gorgeous scenery to the wide-eyed innocence and brilliant performances of its mostly young cast. Often with a group of young actors, there’s little to distinguish one novice thespian from another, no quirks in personality other than the most rudimentary. But Narnia’s Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter are each their own person; and what’s more, each grows in his and her own way throughout the movie, however subtly.

Tilda Swinton is riveting as the evil White Witch, dancing a mighty thin line between hammy and calculating. I believe her screen gravitas alone gave encouragement to the young foursome, headed by Georgie Henley as Lucy, the waif who first stumbles upon the then-frozen land of Narnia. But as I said, each of the Pevensie kids distinguishes themselves in the film, no small task when the indomitable Ms. Swinton is aboard.

The movie would be little more than a live-action cartoon, though, if not for the fantastic, realistic CGI used for the animals, particularly that of the enigmatic lion Aslan, voiced by the great Liam Neeson. Not to be outdone, Ray Winstone’s Mr. Beaver was a true Cockney treat. All of the graphics, though, were quite believable with nary a moment’s hesitation. Well done, indeed. The Chronicles of Narnia should garner a Academy Award nomination for visual effects or set design, I would think.

The movie is fairly rated PG for some frightening moments, but it’s nothing your kids can’t handle (probably). If you’ve read the books, you know there’s one particular scene that might be a tad upsetting to the juniors, but rest assured all will be aright one way or another in the end.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: ***

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