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The Chronicles of Narnia reviews

The synopsis.

In World War II England, the four Pevensie siblings - Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley) - are sent to the safety of the rural home of elderly professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent). While playing hide-and-seek, they accidentally enter the world of Narnia through the magical wardrobe in a spare room. In Narnia, the children discover that the once charming land, inhabited by talking beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs and giants, has been cursed to eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis (Tilda Swinton). Under the guidance of noble and mystical ruler, the lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), the children must fight to overcome the White Witch's powerful hold over Narnia - and somehow save Edmund from her evil scheme that threatens his life.

Review by Louise Keller:
As a child living in Africa, one of my fantasies was to ride on the back of a lion, its full mane rippling in the wind. This is but one of our experiences in the dazzling fantasy world of Narnia, where C.S. Lewis' immortal characters come to life in a spellbinding family adventure with mythical creatures, drop-dead gorgeous New Zealand scenery and an inspiring score. Like the worlds of The Neverending Story and The Wizard of Oz, Narnia is filled with magic and surprises. But like The Lord of the Rings, this film relies on high tech advances to marry its themes of good versus evil. The fantasy elements are rich and wonderfully realised as the journey from the back of an old wardrobe takes us from a staid, uncertain world into a spectacularly wondrous one.

Directed and co-written by Andrew Adamson, who delighted audiences everywhere with Shrek and Shrek II, there is a contagious sense of wonder, reminiscent of precious childhood innocence. Despite the natural English reserve and diffidence ('We're not heroes - we're from Finchley'), we still get involved. In a wise casting decision, the children are totally unknown, which works to the film's advantage. They are all excellent, especially 10 year old Georgie Henley as Lucy, who steals our hearts with her cute button nose and big eyed gaze.

Tilda Swinton is imposing as the austere White Witch with the ice crown, a vision of pale wickedness who rides in a polar-bear driven sleigh through the winter wonderland. The first glimpse of Narnia, as Lucy stumbles into the picture postcard setting is indelible, snow crunching under her feet, the trees dusted as if with icing sugar. The characters are irresistible - from Mr Tumnus the man-goat (James McAvoy), to the chatty beavers (voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French), the wily Fox (voiced by Rupert Everett), as well as the stately unicorn, cheaters, centaurs and minotaurs. The regal Aslan the Lion (voiced by Liam Neeson) lives up to his reputation as the brave and selfless King of the Beasts.

A warm-hearted story that leaps into thrilling fantasy, Narnia is a winner hands down, enabling us to ride the wind, defeat our foes and safely come down to earth. Younger audiences may become restless by the 2 hours 20 minute running time, but most will be swept away.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Gathering primal elements that have driven fairy tales for a thousand years, C. S. Lewis adds eccentric English charm (like the tea drinking Mr and Mrs Beaver, voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French) and sibling rivalry to tease out an adventure with a message.

New Zealander Andrew Adamson clearly relishes the task of turning Lewis' Chronicles into a fantasy film for the family, and in the spirit of Lord of the Rings, conjuring a world of talking beasts, giant armies, spectacular landscapes, terrifying confrontations, dashes of humour and entire worlds to save from doom.

All of this magical movie making is still reliant on performances in front of the camera, though, and the adorable little Georgie Henley runs away with the film, giving us a little girl who is smart but not precocious, sweet but not insufferably cute, brave but not foolish, and loving but not cloying. We believe Lucy's every smile, every tear and every grimace as she runs, trips and cajoles her way through the deadly world of Jadis (Tilda Swinton) the wicked witch of the ice.

Swinton, too, impresses with her cold and hateful witch, while Lucy's siblings offer solid support throughout. The beasts are wondrous, especially Aslan the wise and powerful lion, and James Cosmo in a cameo as an untypical Father Christmas. Voice work from Ray Winston and Dawn French offer comic relief and James McEvoy as the elf, Mr Tumnus, makes our first encounter in Narnia enchanting.

Adamson's direction is agreeably dramatic, ensuring that we invest in characters and story sufficiently to make the payoff a genuine pleasure.



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