MoviesThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I think I may have read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at some point, but it's all fuzzy. Mostly, I remember the effeminate lion, known as Aslan, from the animated version. This left an impression on viewers for sure, because it showed up in a South Park episode (apparently, all lions do is tell really dumb jokes). This movie will make you forget the animated version of the C.S. Lewis' novel.

To wit, the children of the Pevensie family are sent away to live with foster parents during World War II. There's brave Peter (William Moseley), angry Edmund (Shandar), smart Susan (Anna Popplewell) and innocent Lucy (Georgie Henley). The four are eventually transported to Narnia, a land populated by fauns, centaurs, werewolves, minotaurs, ogres, giants, harpies, phoenixes, griffons, goblins, and talking animals. It is here that the Christ-like lion known as Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) has returned to do battle with the White Witch (Tilda Swinton).

The four children are each gifted with special weapons by none other than Santa Claus--err, sorry, Father Christmas (James Cosmo)--and ultimately must face their own fears and share their unique talents to save Narnia.

The film starts out slow, slow enough to make the children in the audience restless. But once the war begins, it's a heart-pounding race to the finish. Never before have so many mythological beings blasted across the screen, Dungeons & Dragons style, to beat the stuffing out of each other. The special effects are so good that when Aslan isn't speaking you forget he's an animated lion. And amazingly, this is a PG (not even PG-13!) movie.

People get hurt and even die. Big, scary monsters try to murder each other as well as the children. And they use words like "kill." This is not the kiddy fare you remember.

And yet, not one child was upset. Narnia harkens back to a time when fairytales were cautionary stories that demonstrated the right choices through the travails of its protagonists. All four children grow: Peter finds his courage, Edmund his humility, Susan her sense of wonder, and Lucy…well, Lucy discovers loss.

The Christian symbolism is rife but appropriate. Ironically, Narnia may well convert those holdouts that feel fantasy is somehow evil, as opposed to its original roots--allegories for Christian morality. It completes the work that Peter Jackson started, a sort of Lord of the Rings for the kiddie set. I for one am glad that C.S. Lewis' vision was realized with such breathtaking imagination.

All that, and there's no trace of a lisping lion.