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Er ... is it just me, or is she
aiming in completely the wrong
direction?

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Review written by: Alex Sandell

All you hear about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is talk of how evangelicals are booking entire theaters for their congregations, in the way they did The Passion of the Christ.  While the movie's about as subtle as a sledgehammer with its Christian message, it's child's play when put up against The Passion.  What bothers me more than its half-hearted religious themes is the way the film drags.  It's as slow as Sunday Mass and as compelling as a recycled sermon. 

Outside of Georgie Henley as Lucy, whose enthusiastic performance brightens the screen, you don't give a damn about any of these characters.  The sweeping cameras, slow-motion shots and bad elevator music are supposed to make you feel like you care, but you simply don't. 

Even Aslan the talking lion, who's representing Jesus Christ in the film (making it seem sort of kinky when two girls simultaneously ride him), means nothing.  We're supposed to care about Aslan more than anyone else in the movie.  He is Jesus Christ, for God's sake.  But his character has very few words, and when he does talk, it's usually inside a tent or off on a cliff, where we can't hear him

The film starts out promising.  When Lucy first enters Narnia and meets up with that hideous looking "fawn" with the deer legs and the human chest, it seems like a lot of fun.  The shaking of hands moment was sweet and funny.  I was rooting for the movie, at this point.  But when all 4 of the kids enter the land hidden within the wardrobe and hear about some great war, enthusiasm turns into tedium and I found myself counting the minutes until the movie was finally over.

The problem with the film is that it wants to be an epic, when C.S. Lewis's book was anything but.  It wants to be the next Lord of the Rings.  C.S. Lewis wrote a very simple book that was entertaining enough while it lasted.  It actually took me nearly an hour longer to watch the movie than it did to read the entire novel the movie was based upon.  The film doesn't really add anything new, so it's padded with slow-motion shots and cameras wildly zooming over vast landscapes. 

As far as religious imagery, all I picked up on during first viewing were the kids being called "Son of Adam" (the boys) and "Daughter of Eve" (the girls).  There's a hideously obnoxious line where Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent, who, with this and The Exorcism of Emily Rose is obviously performing some sort of celluloid penance) asks, after the children show no faith in what they can't see and what their apparently truthful and pure younger sister believes, "What are they teaching in schools these days?" I guess not "Intelligent" Design -- at least not yet.  What a pandering nod to the creationists.

The most obvious allegory is Aslan the Lion.  Anyone who's even been in the same room as a Bible will be able to pick up on this beast standing in for James Caviezel ... er ... Jesus Christ.  The next few lines contain spoilers (and the most blatant Christian allegories of them all) -- to view them, simply highlight the blank part of the page.  Because of some rule that allows The White Witch to take control of traitors (like Satan gets to rule over sinners), she is to take Judas Edmund away from his brother and two sisters.  Aslan talks to Edmund (of course we can't hear him) and it turns out he's willing to die for the boy's sins (like Jesus died for our own).  We then go through a Passion of the Christ like scene where the lion is shaved, whipped, ridiculed and generally put in a bad position, before being killed.  Lucy and her sister Susan cry over the dead beast all night, until he's suddenly resurrected and takes them into battle.  Yay!

The film doesn't take the time to let us know Aslan as a noble character, which is necessary to make the scene pay off.  Instead, it's a horrible bore.  It's also pointless, and is there so Disney can say, "See?  We're not just in this for the merchandising!"  Anyone with any sense would have decided the film was already running too long, saw how meaningless the scene was to anyone other than the "Christian-est" of Christians, and would have removed it for length (despite its being in the book).  It takes a big bite out of the battle scene and leaves a once pumped up audience deflated.

The battle itself is a less exciting version of the battle for Minas Tirith in The Return of the King.  It's embarrassing how extensively director Andrew Adamson (of Shrek and Shrek 2 fame) robbed from Peter Jackson.  In C.S. Lewis's book, we don't really get to read much about the battle.  We just hear how well some of the characters did during the fight.  In the movie we get to see the full-blown war, and it doesn't take long to realize we've seen it before.  Isn't stealing a sin?

The directing is not the only mediocre aspect of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The effects are truly hit-and-miss.  The talking beavers ("talking beaver" joke removed, due to crudeness), while amusing, look like something out of Shrek.  The same goes for the talking fox, the talking wolves and basically all the animals that run around chattering up a storm.  The only talking animal they really get right is Aslan the talking lion.  I suppose, if they screwed up the cat representing Christ, there'd be Hell to pay. 

The music in the movie is awful.  I don't know how much incense they were smoking when they put together the soundtrack, but half the film is filled with vaguely eerie sounding elevator music (is there any other kind?).  It was like being stuck in Vegas at a CÚline Dion concert. 

The editing could have also used some divine intervention.  There is no reason this movie should have been more than 2 hours.  A 2 and a half hour runtime is inexcusable, when there isn't 2 and a half hours of material worth putting on film. 

The movie isn't all bad.  The sets look decent, even if they do look like sets.  Some of the digital matte paintings are excellent, while others are on the embarrassing side.  The acting from everyone is passable, and young Georgie Henley verges on excellent. The battle would be fun enough, if it wasn't in The Return of the King a couple of years prior.  And there's absolutely nothing wrong with a group of characters coming out of the closet at the end of a Christian film.

Overall, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a bloated, cumbersome, overlong misfire.  Nothing in the film leaves you wanting more.  Unlike the Lord of the Rings' films, which it so desperately tries to emulate, I doubt anyone will care about seeing the second installment.  Although its pro-Christian message didn't seem very effective, I wonder if it didn't just begin to turn me into a believer.  When a character toward the end of the film said, "It is finished" I exclaimed, "Thank God!"

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