Though my childhood memories of the book are dim, I understood, watching The Chronicles of Narnia: why both nerds and Christians would anticipate the film version: it’s ponderous (like Lord of the Rings) and preachy (like the Bible). To wit: siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie travel through a portal in a wardrobe to enter the magical kingdom of Narnia, where they help lion king Aslan battle the White Witch, self-proclaimed queen of Narnia. In case you haven’t heard, Aslan is a dead ringer for Jesus, from his wisdom to his self-sacrifice to his sexy, flowing mane.
It’s not really the religious stuff that does the film in — though the combination of fantasy and Christ allegory does have the presumably unintended effect of making belief systems in general seem downright hallucinatory (yeah, so there’s this talking lion who leads us into battle, and Santa Claus drops by to give us weapons!). It’s not even the drastically mixed bag of special effects.
No, Narnia suffers more from Harry Potter, Peter Pan, and A Series of Unfortunate Events calling dibs on so many talented child actors. The Narnia kids may turn out to be fine performers, but the movie offers no guidance; they’re each given a role (innocent, responsible, logical, angry) rather than a character. So Georgie Henley relies on enormous eyes and over-emphatic delivery as little Lucy, William Moseley blands it up as the eldest, Peter, and so on.
At least Tilda Swinton has fun as the White Witch, committing the apparent sin of fabulousness. There are moments where Narnia engages via silly spectacle, but mostly it’s oddly workmanlike.
Opens December 9