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Grimmer `Narnia' sequel enchants.

Byline: Daniel M. Kimmel

COLUMN: Movie review

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005) proved that there was a market for family-oriented fantasy films beyond the world of "Harry Potter." Based on the series of novels for children by C. S. Lewis, its success ensured that more "Narnia" films would be on their way. Thus, we come to "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."

Although only a year has gone by for the Pevensie siblings in wartime London, many centuries have elapsed in Narnia. Virtually everything from the last film is gone. Aslan - the noble lion voiced by Liam Neeson - has not been seen in a millennium. The White Witch (Tilda Swinton) is supposedly long dead, and the adult kings and queens the children turned into are now the stuff of legend, as are the magical creatures of Narnia itself.

Instead, the human Telmarines are imposing their will on the land, and the evil Lord Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) has been killing his way to power. When his wife gives birth to a son, his next step is to arrange for the murder of Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), his nephew and rightful heir to the throne. Caspian escapes, discovers the remnants of Narnia just as the four kids arrive, and the plot is set in motion.

It's a battle of good versus evil, of course, but it's also about characters making choices. Should Susan (Anna Popplewell) risk their lives in her belief that Aslan still lives? Facing overwhelming odds, should Peter (William Moseley) risk bringing the White Witch back to power in exchange for defeating Miraz? And can Caspian, being a Telmarine himself, be fully trusted?

Director/co-writer Andrew Adamson, who also did the first film, tells the story in deft strokes while providing some breathing room for characterization. When the Narnian forces gather, there are a lot of folks to keep straight, yet when they attack the Telmarine castle, the battle plan is clear - even if it doesn't get followed to the letter.

The special effects are impressive but don't distract. In the climactic battle you may realize afterward that much of what you just saw had to be computerized effects, but while you're watching it you're apt to be caught up in the story. That will satisfy the fans, but parents of young children should be warned that the PG rating goes easy on the film. There are many deaths in the battles, some of them being Narnians. Some preteens may find this rather intense.

The acting is serviceable, with most of the attention likely to fall on Barnes' Caspian, as a newcomer to the series. He's suitably heroic, and may turn a few hearts in the audience. Adults are more likely to enjoy the wry turn by Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin the Red Dwarf.

Disney and Walden Media promise one more Narnia adaptation ("Voyager of the Dawn Treader") before committing to any more. They may just be acting coy. "Prince Caspian" is a solid fantasy blockbuster that suggests they're very much in it for the long haul.

`The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian'

***

A Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media presentation

Rating: PG for epic battle action and violence

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Ben Barnes, left, Anna Popplewell and Skandar Keynes in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Movie review
Date:May 16, 2008
Words:560
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