CON Lion
Edmund immediately regretted his decision to enter the Lion enclosure at the zoo.

Golden Mug

NOMINEE: Supporting Actress (Tilda Swinton), Score (Harry Gregson-Williams), Art Direction (Jules Cook, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy & Jeffrey Thorp), Visual Effects

Theatrical Release Date: 12/09/2005
Director: Andrew Adamson
Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton

Another beloved children’s book has made its way to the silver screen and finally all of the hype is over. C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” relates the tale of four siblings ­ (Peter, Edmund, Lucy and Susan) who discover a magical world through a portal in a wardrobe. Most people read this book at one time or another between the ages of 8 and 18 and know the basic plotline.

For those of you who didn’t learn to read or take the time to read this particular book, the story takes place during World War II in England. The four Pevensie children are sent away to escape the German air raids and the youngest girl, Lucy, stumbles upon the world of Narnia while playing hide and seek with her brothers and other sister. Narnia is under the reign of an evil witch and to fulfill the prophecy and return the land to it greatness and free its citizens, the four siblings must help lead the revolt.

That is a gross oversimplification but you get the gist. Thankfully, as the leads are all children, the producers and director Andrew Adamson had little choice but to cast unknowns.

Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell portray the children and do an admirable job. Without being able to cast the hot young actors of this second, the audience is allowed to believe these kids really are the characters in the books come to life. I don’t have to try too hard to suspend my disbelief as if Paul Walker were to play a NASA engineer, nuclear physicist or fry cook … you know, jobs above his ability.

Also a nice part of the ensemble, relative unknown James McAvoy nicely portrays the fawn, Mr. Tumnus. His compassion for the children, especially Lucy whom he meets upon her first foray into Narnia, is probably the heart of the film. Actually, in thinking back on this film, aside from the CGI characters, McAvoy is the only actual actor that seems to convey some real concern for both the well-being of the children and of Narnia.

But in casting the evil witch, the filmmakers did choose a noteworthy actress in Tilda Swinton. She was absolutely perfect for this role and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a perfect evil witch, aside from maybe in the original “Snow White”. And as that witch was a cartoon, Swinton is my pick as best evil witch ever.

It is her brilliant performance that drives the tension in the film and creates the foundation for us to believe that Narnia is in need of help from the Pevensie children.

With the humans out of the way, we come to the remaining characters in film, who are either completely or partially computer generated. Liam Neeson provides the voice of the lion Aslan, the Jesus component of Lewis’s religious symbology. While there are plenty of scenes that remind you that the lion is not real, this is just about as good as it gets until a few more generations of software are figured out.

The rest of the animal kingdom, which includes beavers, wolves, and bears (oh my, sort of), are all a mix of real and CGI. The digital trickery does show, but it’s done very well and does not detract from the look of the film. Overall the effects are excellent and all of the costuming and weaponry is top notch.

In the end, Adamson’s translation of this film from the book is as good as could be done without hiring Peter Jackson. Fans of the book will be pleased, having to obviously forgive some of the plot points and details that were changed/omitted for both time and flow. Though landing in at just under 2 and ½ hours, the film’s length feels just right.

On the negative side, I did hope that there would be a stronger emotional component to this film. Aside from Swinton and McAvoy, most of the other characters did little to pull me into Narnia. I didn’t really believe the grief and concern the children tried to portray during some of the more pivotal scenes.

I’m a cynical bastard, but usually I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. Unfortunately, either through fault of the actors, the director, or some combination thereof, it’s more like the 4 children are all friends from school than brother and sister.

That aside, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” gets a weak 4 out of 5 from me. I know it’s a bit of a copout to say it’s a weak 4, but this film deserves more than a 3 and if I had felt the children’s familial bond more strongly, I could give this a full 4 rating.

So take a pull of chuckpucker as Lucy disappears into the wardrobe and go check this film out. This is a great escape from the world and the only thing to fill the “Lord of The Rings” void we have been left with the last few years.