Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia

So Jenn and I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe during the week between Christmas and New Year’s but I really had no idea how to sum up my thoughts or what I was going to blog so I procrastinated. Now I can say, definitively, that I both enjoyed the film immensely and hope never again to type the unwieldy title. It’s almost as bad as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Almost.

Seeing as I haven’t read the book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe since I was about 10 years old, I’m surprised at how little prompting I needed to remember much of the plot and characters. Of course, I hit Spark Notes for a quick refresher course before we went to the theatre, but still it was on the tip of my brain. My fourth grade teacher read the entire septology to us and I can see some of my memories and imaginings of the story in my mind’s eye. The most vivid memory I have is of Turkish Delight which, at the time, I think, was explained to me as some kind of fruitcake – had I known it contained rosewater I think my childhood reaction would have remained constant: Guh!

But the movie does a better than average job of portraying the events of the book. I’m struck by how short the story seems to be. Within an instant of being transported to Narnia through the wardrobe all Hell breaks loose and the children are plunged headlong into war. It happens so quickly and with so few twists and turns – save Saint Nick – that it’s hard to imagine how the book and movie gain their weight.

But it’s a very simple allegory, really. Aslan the Lion sacrifices his own life for the lives of the children and Christ-like defies death (albeit through some rules lawyering) to save the world. Very thinly veiled but still well-done and well-acted.

Here’s the deets for those that know how I tend to do things:

What I liked:

  • British kids
    Thank JK Rowling and her Potter books and movies for keeping the English in English Literature.
  • The talking animals
    I’m glad the woodland creatures were kept as wild and simple as they were. Not too human.
  • Rupert Everett
    Not a huge part, but any voiceover work for stereotypically ne’er do well Brits and up-to-something types should go to this man.
  • The tone
    For all the brouhaha about the content of this film and all the religious groups making a land-grab for the political and religious messages, this is a children’s story. It was told in a children’s voice, with children in the lead roles, at a pace a child could understand and with a simple message no child could miss. More than any of the Harry Potter books/movies, this is a children’s story.

What I didn’t like:

  • The snow
    It all looked extremely fake. Not an actual flake to be found and for a land in perpetual Winter, I could see the soundstage just below the carpet of white fibers.
  • The monsters
    If the animals were good, the other fantastic creatures – especially centaurs, fawns and dwarfs – seemed like caricatures. Where LotR’s monsters seemed frightening and real, these baddies were straight out of a bedtime story, which I’m sure is the point (see my last point above). Still, the animals had such life, it’s a shame to see such wooden minotaurs and griffons. Honestly.
  • The white witch
    Not enough deceitful, sneaky evil and too much pure, unadultered evil. It’s a fine line to be sure, but I wanted a little more sugar with my vinegar. YMMV.

So there you have it, a fine holiday film. As with all (most?) of these kinds of movies, if you liked the source material you’re likely to love the big screen version.

Bonus linkage: “Lazy Sunday” SNL rap (Chronic-what-cles of Narnia) and the ensuing t-shirt.

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