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Worth A Look: 19.19%
Just Average: 25.58%
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7 reviews, 130 user ratings

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Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Lion King of Kings"
2 stars

The best big-budget fantasy films–let us cite such recent examples as the criminally underseen “Mirrormask” and the last couple “Harry Potter” installments–are works that dazzle the eye by transporting viewers into a completely convincing environment and touch the heart by telling stories in which anything can happen while still grounding them in with recognizable actions and emotions. On the other hand, when such a film doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work and all that viewers are left with is the sorry spectacle of uncomfortably-dressed actors mouth literally unspeakable dialogue while vaguely reacting to the nothingness that will eventually be filled in by the effects department. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” the expensive and long-awaited adaptation of the first of a series of fantasy books by C.S. Lewis, is clearly striving to be the former and there are a few early scenes that hold out the hope that the filmmakers have actually pulled it off. It doesn’t last, though, and, with the exception of one nifty performance, quickly slips away to becoming a prime example of the latter category–it starts off with the hopes of being the next “Lord of the Rings” but winds up being little more than “King of Kings” with talking beavers.

For those who have somehow remained unexposed to Lewis’s work in the decades since its original publication, the story opens as four young British siblings–older brother Peter (William Moseley), older sister Susan (Anna Popplewell), younger brother Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and younger sister Lucy (Georgie Henley)–are sent away from London during the Blitz to live in the countryside with eccentric distant relative Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent). While playing hide-and-seek one day, Lucy decides to hide inside a wardrobe hidden away in a forgotten room and as she makes her way to the back, she finds the fur coats and dust turning into pine trees and snow as she emerges into what appears to be a different world. Almost immediately, she meets a strange goat-boy named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who informs her over tea and cakes that she is in the magical land of Narnia. He also informs her that because she is a human (“a daughter of Eve”), he is supposed to kidnap her and take her to the White Witch (Tilda Swinton), the fearsome overlord of Narnia who has plunged the entire country into eternal winter. Luckily, Tumnus has a change of heart and sends her back home where, inevitably, her siblings dismiss her tale as the fantasy of an over-imaginative child.

A few days later, while trying to avoid Kirke’s fearsome housekeeper after doing some damage with an errant cricket ball, all four of them enter the wardrobe and find themselves transported into Narnia. From some helpful talking beavers, they learn that the true leader of Narnia is a benevolent lion named Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson, who apparently gets first dibs on every father-figure role in Hollywood today) that was banished by the White Witch but who is gathering an army of followers to help him regain his throne. According to a prophecy, four humans–two boys and two girls–are fated to aid Aslan in his efforts and will one day become royalty as a result. At first, only Lucy wants to stay and help but it transpires that the sneaky and devious Edmund has actually previously met the White Witch and promised her his siblings in exchange for some Turkish Delight and the ability to rule at her side; actually, she imprisons the twerp to use him as bait to prevent the prophecy from coming true. Therefore, the remaining three set off on a long journey to find Aslan and, when he appears to sacrifice himself in order to save Edmund, to eventually lead his minions into battle for all of Narnia.

The best scenes in the film are the early ones that set up the premise. Director Andrew Adamson (making his live-action debut after helming the “Shrek” films) gets a lot of mileage from the kids trying to get used to their new surroundings in the Professor’s rambling mansion and the scene in which the wardrobe gradually transforms into Narnia is really quite lovely and effective. However, the further we travel into Narnia, the less impressive it becomes. There is little here that we haven’t seen before–talking animals, grand armies and the like–but it all has a strangely chintzy feel to it that would be acceptable in a made-for-TV miniseries but which simply feels wrong in a mega-budget motion picture, particularly one where the vast majority of the money must have gone into the actual production instead of lavish star salaries. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the “Lord of the Rings” films but I will admit that one of the great achievements of that series was the way in which it created a highly detailed and virtual seamless alternate world. It is that sense of place and detail that is sorely lacking in “Narnia”–instead, it more closely resembles the world’s most expensive Renaissance Faire.

The other major flaw in the film–and one that I suspect is the real reason why it has taken this particular story so long to make it to the silver screen–is the fact that there really isn’t that much to the story other than a standard good vs. evil romp with any creativity or nuance being replaced by heavy-handed Christian allegory. Because the religious parallels are pretty upfront (it becomes so overt towards the end that you begin to yearn for the relative subtlety of that “son of Adam/daughter of Eve” stuff from earlier on), there has been some speculation in the media that viewers might be offended by such overtly Christian-related material. (There is an extended pseudo-crucifixion of Aslan that plays like what the final scenes of “The Passion of the Christ” must look like after getting the DVD back from those ClearPlay dopes.) My objections are not with the fact that the story contains a heavy-handed Christian allegory–I find it somewhat difficult to take too seriously any story with a central theology that simultaneously embraces God, talking beavers and an arms-dealing Santa Claus–but with the fact that there is nothing else to it but allegory. Aside from Lucy (an engaging performance from newcomer Georgie Henley), the kids are throughly bland and uninteresting, the epic quest that they embark on never feels particularly dangerous or arduous, the White Witch never comes across as much of a threat and the epic battle at the end is a long and confused slog that seems to exist only to demonstrate that neither Lewis nor the filmmakers quite made it to the part in the Bible about turning the other cheek.

There is exactly one aspect of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” that really works and that is the great performance by the iconoclastic Tilda Swinton as the White Witch. It is a bit unusual for her to appear in such a frankly commercial proposition as this–her filmography tends to lean towards the quirkier likes of “The Deep End,” “Orlando” and several collaborations with the late Derek Jarman (and one can only imagine what his reaction to her presence her might have been)–but she takes to the part with the same kind of fierce commitment that she always brings to the table. Instead of taking the attitude that she can just coast through what is essentially a kiddie romp, she delivers a performance that is both amusingly campy (perhaps inevitable when you are delivering dialogue to foul-tempered dwarves and talking lions) and genuinely menacing–when she loses her cool early on with Edmund, she sends out a chill that has nothing to do with the wintry surroundings. I doubt that she will mark her work her as one of the high-water marks of her career but when she is on-screen, she brings such genuine life and energy to the proceedings that I suspect that most people of taste will find themselves siding with her during the final battle instead of the thunderously dull Aslan.

It is easy to understand why “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” was made–after the mammoth success of the “Harry Potter” and the “Lord of the Rings” films, the notion of bringing another fantasy classic (especially one with a number of already-written sequels) to the screen must have been irresistible. Unfortunately, it lacks the spark of excitement and ingenuity that those films, despite their flaws, contained and the end result is more of a drag. If you are looking for a film that is a live-action version of C.S. Lewis’s work and nothing more, I suppose that this film may fit the bill. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something with the charm and creativity to dazzle the senses on its own terms, then I fear that it will come across as little more than a profound disappointment

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13650&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/09/05 00:03:17
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good if a bit harsh 4 stars
4/14/16 zhtiybvviry USA 3 stars
8/28/12 Alex Figueroa Just great! 4 stars
2/14/12 Ron Larson wonderful movies! Don't waste your time on Harry Potter crap. 5 stars
1/22/11 Shawn E Loved it! Couldn't wait for the sequels. 5 stars
2/16/10 The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness Not the best movie, but certainly the best iteration of Narnian movies over the decades. 4 stars
2/06/09 Brian lots of ripped off scenes from other movies badly recreated. badly choreographed fight scen 1 stars
1/16/09 Aesop Filmmaking magic at its finest. 5 stars
1/12/09 Anonymous. a good story and good family film. i liked the books too :] 4 stars
9/17/08 hung kwow best movie ever 5 stars
9/11/08 Kathy ter Plugg Salvages much charm from CSLewis's pseudoChristian gobbledygook, but sequel all downhill. 4 stars
8/25/08 Vince not bad, quite interesting during the battle scene 5 stars
5/17/08 Prestle Dull and boring 2 stars
5/05/08 Mike It felt like poorly disguised allegory. Motivations were not fleshed out. 2 stars
3/01/08 Pamela White stunning effects but ho hum human performances 3 stars
10/19/07 Pauline Burns It was great! Loved the JESUS theme in it. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger narnia isn't expanded enough. doesn't make you believe like LOTR enough. 2 stars
7/04/07 Trust Extremely dull, obviously an under 12 kids film but still, too hollow 2 stars
6/27/07 moncutter i like it but whenevr the wolf and aslan roar i jumped out of my seat. i must've look funny 5 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK Good god, this suck arse. A 12 year old leading an army that nobody dies in. thats it. 1 stars
4/14/07 ella steer i love the film to bits and are watching it every second of my life georgie henley is cool! 5 stars
4/11/07 n it was really funny when Mrs. beaver was taking somf food for them when they were in danger 4 stars
3/11/07 jeanne Those children were so ANNOYING, I was rooting for Tilda! 2 stars
1/08/07 bob is it ok to shit in narnia?? 1 stars
12/04/06 Anthony G Dragon, unimaginative? Sorry, but that's just retarded. 4 stars
11/29/06 christina zacarias good for a family movie 4 stars
11/17/06 Christina McNay The whole point is it is a family movie, it is for KIDS!!! Not sum complex thing! 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist Dull& unimaginitive, &it tried too hard to be the next big film.I never like the story. 2 stars
8/08/06 David Cohen Okay, it's x-tian propaganda, if that doesn't bother you its not bad 4 stars
8/02/06 CHRISTIE IT IS COOL! 5 stars
8/01/06 emily it was brillitant it was also probably the best 1 day i would like 2 meet the 4 children 5 stars
7/30/06 Scotty Faithful to the book; Great make-up and special effects! 5 stars
7/13/06 EZ It's pretty good but I hate British kids trying to act 4 stars
6/30/06 Emily This was one of the best movies I have ever seen!! 5 stars
6/30/06 George I partyed 24 hours when this boring shit finished 1 stars
6/18/06 Brooke Clayton i think it was absolutley excellent. 5 stars
6/11/06 Billy A must see for thickheads 1 stars
6/02/06 matt good effects, but poor storytelling 3 stars
5/28/06 Alex amazing, realy original 5 stars
5/05/06 john smith I liked it, so there... 4 stars
5/05/06 Cuenzie Wunzie Book was good. Movie sucks 1 stars
4/27/06 Farron Watson Beautiful and majestic. True to the original work. 5 stars
4/26/06 belinda william lover i love the movie it made me cry and laugh and william moseley is hot!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/24/06 Kirk Hrabrich If you like your moives with underdeveloped plot lines, characters - it's a must see! 2 stars
4/21/06 Jack What the hell?! 1 stars
4/18/06 Annie G Great adaptation of the book. Great acting from the 2 younger kids! 4 stars
4/16/06 R.W.Welch It's no Wiz of Oz but has solid acting and impressive effects. 4 stars
4/13/06 quiet_but_angry @ xanga disappointing- the trailer was far better than the movie 2 stars
4/09/06 TonyF They deliberately mimicked cinematography from LOTR. Butt-itchingly boring. 2 stars
4/05/06 Jennel i thought that Peter (William Moseley) was hot! 5 stars
4/04/06 Twyla Hakensone 5 stars
4/02/06 JRE just blah. stuck to the book, but wasn't entertaining at all 3 stars
3/25/06 Quigley Aslan is what will make this an instant classic; he was powerful. incredible movie 5 stars
3/23/06 mike good effects -total nonsense i loved it 4 stars
3/12/06 Roderick Cromar Almost great. But why were the children allowed to wear fur coats? 4 stars
3/02/06 sbpat21 I kinda walked out 2 stars
2/26/06 Steven Lewis Not a religious going person but I did like the story. 3 stars
2/18/06 linda gebauer wonderful, magnificent scenery 5 stars
2/09/06 Vic Did the childhood classic novel complete justice. I loved it. 5 stars
2/03/06 Michele love the story 4 stars
1/29/06 angela mae catbagan very awesome 5 stars
1/25/06 Sean Hartlieb Simply imaginative and spritually inspiring 5 stars
1/25/06 hooper loop just plain average, too many boring bits, little girl nice acting 3 stars
1/22/06 Anus 3 little motherfuckers swing swords a bit and become rulers. The real fighters become nil. 1 stars
1/21/06 Anthony Feor Burn this movie along with the books cause this just ruined it all 1 stars
1/21/06 jake it's a great movie 3 stars
1/21/06 Quigley the movie is aimed for younger people, sure, but the image of Aslan is still so powerful 5 stars
1/17/06 thejames best part is the end, when the girl kills guy with arrow. hillarious. 2 stars
1/16/06 kr a movie with great effects and great story , good verses evil and good always wins 4 stars
1/12/06 Perry Mason seemed like a made-for-tv fantasy "epic" with decent special FX. 3 stars
1/09/06 chris. disney: thanks for shitting on my childhood memories. brings sappiness to a great story. 2 stars
1/08/06 bob This is an average movie. 3 stars
1/08/06 Eden Nothing really stands out apart from Swinton's excellent White Witch 3 stars
1/05/06 Littlepurch Loved the beavers! Comical and likeable. But whole film great. The queen rules! 5 stars
1/03/06 Marek Pokorny Awesome - The reviewer forgot this is a young teen film 5 stars
1/01/06 malcolm much better than i expected, not corny, childish or overtly religious 4 stars
1/01/06 too-much-coffee mistress color-by-numbers adaptation, lacks the emotional punch of the original material. 3 stars
12/31/05 Quigley this was amazing. powerfully moving (Aslan) & impressive (Aslan). you people are heartless 5 stars
12/31/05 joy dull 1 stars
12/30/05 James Great CGI; poor storyline; hard to stay awake 2 stars
12/29/05 VenusxMantrap I loved it so much, I had to remind myself to breathe at times. 5 stars
12/28/05 Dada Faithful to the book; cool FX; well done! 5 stars
12/28/05 Sara Turner Excellent movie, both in special effects and story line. 5 stars
12/28/05 bullit16 Lord of the Rings Lite. Still fun to watch. Read the book. 4 stars
12/27/05 Henry Beckwith Viewing this movie is the equivalent to eating cardboard. 1 stars
12/26/05 kaz magical childrens movie for the whole family 5 stars
12/26/05 Suzz one of the worst films I've ever seen 1 stars
12/26/05 jimena congratulations 1 stars
12/26/05 G WTF? this is what happens when you take a PG-13 book and make a PG movie 3 stars
12/26/05 Katrina Graham An utter disappointment that almost made me wonder what I ever saw in the books. 1 stars
12/24/05 DM A bit too much like LOTR. A good movie (Swinton is great), but it's missing something. 4 stars
12/23/05 MF Great movie 5 stars
12/23/05 Quigley the CG effects, the story and the characters (Aslan) will become immortal in movie history 5 stars
12/23/05 john wow, sensitive, beautiful, texture fine, lovely 5 stars
12/20/05 ugh really wanted it to be good, but you gotta be 8 to find it anything but boring 2 stars
12/19/05 Anal Sub-standard Lord of the Rings wannabe rip-off. Ass-lan 1 stars
12/19/05 John Ellis This movie was great...forget any critics who tell you otherwise 5 stars
12/19/05 Meeeeeeeeeeee This film was bloody awesome 5 stars
12/19/05 M. BOOORING! What's with the queen's costumes? Crap! 1 stars
12/19/05 I wanna dos it my self giggle giggle what movie 1 stars
12/17/05 meme I love this movie 5 stars
12/17/05 Nay It was great and don't even try to compare it the the absolute shite that is Harry Potter 5 stars
12/16/05 captain craig better than Harry Potter mand MUCH better the the lord of the Rings 4 stars
12/15/05 Quigley incredible visuals, amazing cast, and good score. but see this film for one thing: Aslan. 5 stars
12/14/05 Jason I loved it! 5 stars
12/14/05 Lowtax Crap CGI. Go watch King Kong instead. Or just download this, watch and delete 1 stars
12/14/05 Cunt Hypocritical christian propaganda 1 stars
12/14/05 Flounder Pure Poop!!! 3 stars
12/14/05 Kata I don't know what you were thinking, but this movie had a lot of emotion! 5 stars
12/14/05 Brian One of the best movies I have ever seen! You people are morons! 5 stars
12/13/05 Corinne I kept waiting for the excitement to step up. Thought it was very slow. 3 stars
12/12/05 Angel Valentine It was bland and boring at best. I wasted my money. 3 stars
12/12/05 scotch Great casting (Tilda rocks!) & visuals. Same old tired theology, but now with talking beave 4 stars
12/12/05 David Poe Tell us when you get around to reviewing the film, the MST3k impression sucks. 4 stars
12/12/05 Jonathon Holmes Eh, it's OK. Skip this and see "Goblet of Fire" 3 stars
12/11/05 Butterbean Watch it for Tilda's White Witch. Otherwise, it's silly and St. Nick gives kids weapons. 3 stars
12/11/05 Whiteshaft Eh. Just OK. 3 stars
12/11/05 othree Suprisingly good cast flawless efx restricting PGrating long true 2 CSLewis 4 stars
12/10/05 Titus Wow, that was a disappointment. Superficial, poorly acted, and just somehow creepy. Ick. 2 stars
12/10/05 Lord Jiggy Get over your PC anti-Christianity. Wonderfully done film, uplifting even. 5 stars
12/10/05 Kevin Murray Great book; bad movie; worse review. Pro-Catholic propoganda from a Protestant? 3 stars
12/10/05 Wolf I laughed, I cried, it was even true to the book. 5 stars
12/09/05 Flounder Starts off wonderfully, but quickly becomes heavy-handed, wooden and dull. Disappointing. 3 stars
12/07/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble The rich kids wear fur. They Rock!!!!! 5 stars
12/03/05 Ray Decent 4 stars
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  09-Dec-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 12-Dec-2006



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