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"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" Movie Review

Another Highly Touted Holiday Release Doesn't Live Up to Expectations

By

Anna Popplewell, William Moseley, and Georgie Henley in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."

© Walt Disney Pictures
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” is underwhelming to say the least. Despite battle sequences that may well rival fight scenes from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in their ability to blend CGI and live action, “Narnia” never manages to take off. It’s overblown storytelling at its worst and beyond all else, it’s boring.

Many of the scenes in “The Chronicles of Narnia” are simply gorgeous to watch, even breathtaking, but looks aren’t everything. There has to be a connection made between what’s on the screen and the audience, and this overly long, joyless film never breaks through.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” is two distinctly different films. The first part is a quiet, gentle story of four siblings trying their best to make do and comfort each other during a terribly lonely time in their young lives.

The youngest child Lucy (Georgie Henley) stumbles upon an enchanted world while playing hide and seek with her sister and brothers. Exiting the back of a magical wardrobe, she finds herself caught in a wonderous wintery land where she runs into Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), a half-man, half-goat creature who tells her about the world of Narnia.

Lucy shortly returns to her family practically bursting at the seams with news of Narnia. Of course, no one believes her. It’s all too fantastic. But each of her siblings eventually discover for themselves that Lucy’s telling the truth. As soon as the children enter the snow-coated world beyond the wardrobe, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) find themselves cast as central figures in the battle between good (the Lion, voiced by Liam Neeson) and evil (The Witch, played by Tilda Swinton), with the fate of the citizens of Narnia resting in their young, innocent hands. At that point, the film becomes all about the action and special effects and loses focus on the storytelling. The humanity goes missing from the tale and in its place are horrific bloodbaths and brutal, graphic killings.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” is a fantasy adventure piece filled with wondrous creatures, yet with the exception of a couple of talking beavers and Aslan the lion, the film’s uninviting and stiffly acted. I know it’s bizarre to say CGI beavers have more life to them than the humans who interact with the computerized creations, but it’s true. The whole movie feels flat. It’s as though the filmmakers held their source material in such awe that they failed to step back and look at the project from an audience’s point of view.

“Narnia” is an obvious case of the MPAA ratings board taking violence lightly. This film is probably the most cringe-inducing, violent movie I’ve seen this year. I’d go as far as to say even “Mr and Mrs Smith” didn’t have as much in-your-face violence as this Disney film does. Yet the MPAA awarded this movie a PG rating. Where’s the logic in that? Simply because most of the killings are of CGI creatures doesn’t make the violence any less intense to young viewers. With the advancement in technology, we’ve gotten to the point where computer animated characters are as real onscreen as humans. But the MPAA takes “Narnia’s” seemingly never-ending slaughter of these characters as unimportant, and gives the film the family-friendly PG rating thus helping it out with ticket sales.

Now contrast "Narnia" to a movie like “Casanova.” There’s barely anything sexual in the movie – and no violence – and the film gets slapped with an R rating. It’s all just too ridiculous. The system needs to be thrown out. A little bare skin is not more offensive than watching wolves, beavers, a lion and other animals get slain during brutal fight scenes. “Narnia” is excessively violent and some of the evil creatures are truly frightening to kids. It deserves a stronger rating than PG.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” will make millions and millions of dollars. There’s no doubt about that. Disney’s marketing department has done a great job of selling the movie to church groups, ensuring the film will be a success at the box office. But just because the source material is so beloved and the message of the film is an admirable one, doesn’t mean the big screen version of the story deserves to be let off easy. This movie misses the target by a mile, serving up spectacular effects in lieu of a moving story.

GRADE: C

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" was directed by Andrew Adamson and is rated PG for battle sequences and frightening moments.

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