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

Let’s get this out of the way at the start; yes, this film has a Christian analogy in it, and no, it doesn’t matter. Impressionable children are unlikely to notice or be affected by it (which is more or less how it was with the books), and impressionable adults will have made their minds up about the whole thing already anyway, so it’s all OK. Relax, Mrs. Toynbee. Breathe.

So, analogies aside, is it actually any good? Well, yes. It actually surprised me as to how good it was, in fact — imagine The Lord of the Rings, but with children and animated animals instead of adults and animated orcs and you wouldn’t be far off, though the story lacks the scope, depth and sense of time of that series. The sense I had from watching this was that the children cross Narnia in a couple of days and have little hesitation in becoming instant Generals. At no point did they actually seem like they were needed, but then that’s children’s stories for you — the child is supposed to play the important role whether it makes sense or not.

I had expected the children — Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy played respectively by William Moseley, Skander Keynes, Anna Popplewell and Georgie Henley — to be of the irritating, rosy-cheeked, “fresh out of RADA and probably about to star in a new series of T-Bag” variety, but they’re not. Instead they’re all convincing actors and well-cast, particularly Edmund who glowers his way through the film with ease. Well, that said, the girl who plays Lucy is fairly punchable at times but she’s still not too annoying. We’re not talking Dakota Fanning annoying, at any rate.

As for the animated animals, well, they’re excellent, and it would most likely have destroyed the film if they hadn’t have been. I would never have thought it possible to be watching some talking beavers and actually listening to what they’re saying and caring about what happens to them instead of just trying to think up some beaver jokes. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t seen the film, but they really all do just look like animals that have the ability to talk. The two beavers (voiced by Dawn French and Ray Winstone) are a believable, lovable old married couple, the fox (voiced by Madonna fanboy Rupert Everett) is nicely sly, and Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is, frankly, a double-hard bastard who gets treated to resurrection only thanks to a legal loophole which I think is cheating and is not particularly Christ-like as far as I’m concerned. Nice roar, though.

So what we have is a trimmed down fantasy epic with enough violence to keep the children happy, enough of a firm moral tone to keep the parents happy and enough needless sacrifice to keep the Christians happy. Everyone’s a winner.