The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)

(In theaters, December 2005) Once upon a time, I suppose that this film may have been special. But coming in on the heels of an excellent half-decade for fantasy films, it ends up looking like the latecomer who doesn’t know when the party has moved on. Through no fault of the source material, this first Narnia feels rehashed, dull, familiar and even a little pointless. Kids will flock to it, of course, especially given the you’re-so-special plot of the film (“Welcome, humans! Stick around and we’ll flock to your feet!”) Whatever religious subtext there is to the film is scarcely noticeable, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of originality. The special effects hold up, of course: Though everyone else will focus on the Lion, I was particularly taken by the beavers, surely the finest CGI beavers since Men With Brooms. Otherwise, well, the film sputters on fumes of better things. The faun is creepy, the final battle is obvious (Though I thought, for a while, that they would use effective air support) and the kids are sometimes annoying: No small surprise if I wanted to cheer for Tilda Swinton’s White Witch throughout the movie –at least there’s a character who knows what she’s doing. As for the rest, hey, if fantasy’s your thing, you won’t find any purer (read; ripped-off) material this year.

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