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A visual fantasy.

The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (pg, 140 mins)

Family/Drama/Action. Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, and the voices of Dawn French, Rupert Everett, Brian Cox, Ray Winstone.

I recall the 80s BBC TV version of this with affection.

There was something very appealing about the huge fluffy Aslan the lion, then very clearly a variation of a panto horse, and Barbara Kellerman was a genuinely scary White Witch.

Times and computer technology have changed since and Andrew Adamson's new version of the CS Lewis classic glistens with special effects and spectacular action sequences.

The final battle between the four children and the White Witch's evil army is now a full blown visual extravaganza, recalling gargantuan battles in The Lord Of The Rings.

Animals, albeit computer generated critters, can actually talk now, negating the need for actors to don fur and face-paint, although I would have paid money to have seen Ray Winstone and Dawn French as full-size beavers.

It's this reliance on technical wizardry and eye-popping special effects, which proves the film's downfall.

Lewis's escapist fantasy is primarily a journey of self-discovery for four children.

The relationship between the siblings, overcoming their insecurities and differences to blossom into valiant young men and women, should be at the emotional heart of the story.

But somehow, that has been lost. Even Aslan's death fails to wring a single tear.

As German bombs descend on World War II London, four youngsters, Peter Susan , Edmund and Lucy, are evacuated to the country to stay with eccentric Professor Kirke (Broadbent).

The children play a game of hide 'n' seek and Lucy stumbles on the magical, snow-laden, fairy-tale kingdom of Narnia through a portal at the back of an old wardrobe.

All children soon become embroiled in a battle between good and evil in this strange land, joining forces with the lion Aslan to defeat the wicked Jadis, White Witch (Swinton).

The Chronicles remains largely faithful to Lewis's text, on the most epic scale imaginable. The four young performers are all solid.

Swinton plays the White Witch a little too coolly and the Witch's sleigh driver Ginarrbrik (Shah) is a far more malevolent.

Production design is gorgeous, of course, and the computer effects are excellent although they don't always gel seamlessly with the live action.

In particular, the climactic showdown between the massed armies loyal to Aslan and the White Witch lacks the sheen of realism, with so many digital characters crowding the screen.

No swearing; no sex; violence
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2005
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