The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Running Time: 143 Minutes
Director: Andrew Adamson
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Tilda Swinton, Anna Popplewell, Liam Neeson, James McAvoy, Michael Madsen
Plot: Four British siblings flee to the safety of a countryside estate during one of those raucous wars the Europeans kept having around the turn of the last century. Once there, they promptly vandalize the home of their benevolent caregiver and flee (in a brazen act of cowardice) to a magical kingdom hidden behind some musty old coats, because these kids don’t believe in taking responsibility for their own actions. It isn’t long before one of them befriends a malevolent ruling despot and sells his siblings out for some candy. One thing leads to another and the four children have to lead an army of Rennies into battle after a lion gets symbolically crucified.
Review: I’ll just start by saying that this movie had a lot of cards stacked against it from the onset. It’s an adaptation of a beloved book, it’s starring children, and it’s co-starring talking animals. Generally, none of these elements are the ingredients to a great movie. In fact, they are almost always elements of a shit movie. That being said, they did a serviceable job with Narnia (and that being said, I will still tear it to shreds, because dammit, I’m a fan).
Man oh man…there are a lot of child leads in this movie. Let’s face it…kids can’t act. I don’t think it’s their fault. They just haven’t learned all of their emotions yet. It’s explained pretty well in Inside Out, actually. Sometimes they do learn how to act as they get older, like the kids in Harry Potter (granted, sometimes they don’t, like the other kids in Harry Potter). There are also CGI animals. A lot of CGI animals. It turns out that animals-be they real or digital-are historically about as good as children when it comes to film performances. This movie actually gives us real animals too, and let me tell you it really kills the suspense when you cut straight from fake wolves chasing down children to happy Huskies playfully running through the snow. They were really cute dogs though.
The costumes and sets were all hit or miss. A lot of it looked like a good version of Renfest (but lets face it, even a good version of a renaissance festival is still a Renaissance festival). I’m pretty sure if you listen closely you can hear the extras arguing about Doctor Who? in the background (I punctuated that title on purpose because Whovians hate that).
In the end, the movie could have been trimmed down, especially considering the length of the book it’s based upon. I don’t think it would have kept my attention as a kid. However, it has some battles that the kids will enjoy (or maybe be horrified by…I don’t know what children are exposed to these days). Liam Neeson seemed fitting as the voice of Aslan; Tilda Swinton is good as the White Witch (and also everything else she’s in); and James McAvoy…well, frankly I found his interactions with the little girl to be distressing. Still, if you want your kid to watch a movie with some Christian symbolism in it; this is among the most watchable things in that genre. If you don’t want your kids to be exposed to any Christian symbolism; there’s always The Golden Compass (which is pretty much the same movie, but for kids whose parents don’t believe in anything).