- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2005

Let the healing between the forces of theology and secularism begin. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” recalls “The Lord of the Rings’ ” glory without ditching author C.S. Lewis’ Christian shadings. It’s grand-scale filmmaking done right, a senses-pricking wonder with more than enough heart to make us forgive its occasional excesses.

As a children’s movie, it’s an upper-deck home run. Some will quibble that it can’t compare to the “Rings” trilogy, which also created an alternative world based on a famous text. Then again, how many films can so much as look that trilogy square in the eye?

Set during World War II, “Narnia” follows four London schoolchildren hiding out from Germany’s aerial bombardment at an old professor’s home.

The mansion’s many rooms and crannies provides the ideal setting for hide-and-seek and other boredom-busting games. One day, young Lucy (Georgie Henley) ducks inside a large wardrobe, only to find herself surrounded by more than just fur coats. The backless wardrobe leads to a land called Narnia, where winter has reigned for 100 years, courtesy of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton, a marvel of malevolence).

Her rule may be nearing its end.

The long-absent Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), a kingly lion and Christ figure for those in the know, is preparing to challenge her authority. With him, or so goes the Narnian prophecy, two children of Adam and two of Eve will help restore freedom to the land.

Eventually, Lucy’s siblings follow her into Narnia, where they learn of their part in the prophecy.

The children will have to trust themselves and a passel of talking woodland creatures, including two bickering beavers, in order to stop the White Witch in her tracks.

Spiritual echoes abound in “Narnia,” from the power of blind faith to the weaknesses inherent within us. Young Edmund (Skandar Keynes), in particular, is a far more complicated role than most child actors get to play, and the youngster acquits himself handsomely.

Like the “Rings” features, “Narnia” makes the marriage between live action and the wizardry of computer generated imagery a blessed union. When we’re not marveling at centaurs roaming the countryside, we’re agog over the vibrant colors prancing across the screen.

The big-screen “Narnia” stays more or less faithful to the source. The final battle sequences get a bigger stage here than in the novel, but it’s unlikely fans will quibble over the change.

In a few small ways, this “Narnia” enhances the original text. The German bombardment is only hinted at in Mr. Lewis’ yarn, yet here it’s used to add resonance to the story while giving us a glimpse of how resourceful the children can be under duress.

Director Andrew Adamson of “Shrek” fame hardly seemed the best choice for “Narnia” — the film marks his first big-screen effort using live action characters. The director more than rises to the task at hand. He makes the long wait to see Narnia in full, vivid color worth the while.


TITLE: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

RATING: PG (Intense battle sequences and violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Andrew Adamson. Screenplay by Mr. Adamson, Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the novel by C.S. Lewis

RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

WEB SITE: https://adisney.go.com/disneypictures/narnia/index.html


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