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‘Chronicles’ brings magical world of C. S. Lewis to life

Howie Nave
Four children, from left, Lucy (Georgie Henley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Peter (William Moseley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), discover that they can walk into a wardrobe closet and find themselves in a strange fantasy land called Narnia in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
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Often I am told that there just doesn’t seem to be a movie out there that the entire family can experience and later talk about. Well, guess what – that picture has just been released, to coincide with the holiday spirit and maybe offer up a dose of good tidings in the process.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” is based on the popular, bestselling novels by C. S. “Jack” Lewis. Parents and children alike have been reading his series for several generations. There was a time when his publisher, close friends and even J.R.R. Tolkien (“The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” author) tried to dissuade him from continuing his “Narnia” series, but thankfully he didn’t listen to them. At a time when the world was under the threat of war, the spark that ignited Lewis’ imagination sprung forth, completing the first in the series back in 1948.

The movie, directed by Andrew Adamson (“Shrek” and “Shrek 2”), thankfully recreates his first book faithfully without watering down the message and/or the imagery. And, at close to three hours, thankfully the movie doesn’t feel that long. That alone is a positive testament to the powerful story, and also to the film editors.

Symbolism and the “message” are quite apparent, and even if you are not familiar with the book, the movie version spells it out in a straightforward manner. Disney has chosen spiritual themes in the past for its movies, and with “Narnia,” biblical references make up a large part of the film.

In essence, the movie blends the Christian element along with a fairy-tale adventure of sorts, which all ages will appreciate no matter what level of comprehension one is at. Also in the mix are the children, which are based on Lewis’ time in the late ’30s, when children from his homeland of England were squirreled away from the major cities so as to be out of harm’s way when Nazi Germany started its Blitzkrieg upon London.

C.S. Lewis had opened his home (known as The Kilns) to many of these young refugees. One of these children had been fascinated by a wardrobe in Lewis’ residence, imagining that there was another way out of it through the other side. This image struck a chord with Lewis, who had first read about a magic wardrobe as a boy in “The Aunt and Anabel.”

In “The Chronicles of Narnia,” four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) go to stay with a reclusive old professor in a mysterious country house. While playing a game, Lucy, the youngest, hides in a wardrobe and discovers that it leads to a magical world called Narnia. This land, which is inhabited by talking animals, is ruled by the lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), a good and powerful king. Aslan is pitted against the forces of darkness in this magical world. There’s an evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton), who has kept Narnia in darkness for 100 years. With the arrival of Lucy and her brothers and sister, along with Aslan, the adventure starts to unfold, but the White Witch has creatures of her own that could prove more than a match to Aslan.

Depending on your theological beliefs, the movie opens up into a wide, wondrous world of fascination that only Lewis could have envisioned. It’s safe to assume, upon viewing “Narnia,” that Aslan is in fact a fearsome Jesus with a magnificent mane and a very wise demeanor. You can fill in the blanks when you view this for yourself, but I recommend a repeat screening.

I have a feeling that “The Chronicles of Narnia” is going to be attacked from the far right and the far left. Why? Because any time you open up the forum to your interpretation (some liberties were taken with C. S. Lewis’ work), there is bound to be someone out there who doesn’t agree with the message. That is OK, though. I believe that those in the middle majority will “get it,” and appreciate “Narnia” for what it is, and in turn create a positive word-of-mouth for an exceptional motion picture. I only hope that the requisite sequels are just as good as this outing.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv Comedy Club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts his own morning show on Tahoe’s KRLT radio (“Howie’s Morning Rush”) and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.


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