Monday, May 12, 2008

Repeat Bidness: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

With Prince Caspian releasing this weekend, I am comforted knowing that I will use my complimentary IMAX tickets to instead enjoy Speed Racer, which has been garnering decent praise from some of the LAMBs. You may ask, but Whore, why do you not get all moist and tingly at the latest addition to the realm of Narnia? If you didn’t notice the trepidation in my May Trailer Trash, here’s a taste of the sourness left in my mouth by the flagship film of this series.

Rated PG; 2 hours, 23 minutes
Second-Run Seats ($$) <> Matinee ($$$)

"About as exciting as sitting in a wardrobe for over two hours can be!"

The Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, are sent to live with Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent, Iris) in his country home to keep them safe during World War II. While playing hide and go seek, Lucy, the youngest child, uncovers a wardrobe and discovers it to be a doorway into the land of Narnia. Before long, all the Pevinsie children find themselves escaping through the wardrobe, only to become embroiled in the affairs of the oppressed populace. Narnia’s oppressor, the White Witch (Tilda Swinton, Constantine), soon learns of the children’s presence and seeks to destroy them.

Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) takes the adapted screenplay of the C.S. Lewis book and does (what we assume to be) his best to bring the mystical land of Narnia to life. Indeed, some of the creatures are simply astounding. The special effects department went out of their way to make the Beavers, Maugrim and the wolf patrol, and Aslan the Lion fairly seamless in their interactions with the main characters and their surroundings. That’s why it’s especially disappointing that much of the remaining effects appear slapped together. For example, the children are many times shot with a ‘blue screen’ backdrop that resembles the quality of mid-80’s pornography. Also, the animation of the faun, Mr. Tumnus, doesn’t always mesh quite as well as hoped. On the bright side, the make-up used for Tumnus and the White Witch, as well as the centaurs, minotaurs and dwarves, help compensate for the shoddy special effects.

Ultimately, the major dilemma with the realm of Narnia is its shallowness. The characters and the story’s history are severely underdeveloped. From the confusing opening moments of the film, in which the Pevensies run for cover during a German air raid, you begin to wonder if this is the magical movie advertised over the last few months. This frantic opening pace quickly settles into a lengthy, somewhat plodding exposition on the superficial characteristics of Narnia. Very little is done in the way of providing stimulating conflict or tension with our little heroes. Some of the blame lies with the young cast’s marginal acting, but much of the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the director and his producers who couldn’t sense the lack of heart in their final product. On the plus side, Georgie Henley is simply a delight as Lucy Pevensie. Dakota Fanning better watch her back because if Georgie gets her green card she will provide some stiff competition for America’s hardest-working child actress.

Dirty Undies
Bubkis! I can’t remember a single tantalizing moment of vulgarity, sexuality, or violence that really sticks to your ribs. The film does have a bit of violent innuendo, but the kid-friendly rating keeps the brunt of the exchanges off-screen in lieu of up-close and personal payout.

The Money Shot
When the credits finished rolling, I was fortunate to have a few friends to mull over the lamentable Chronicles I with me. The consensus was that, thanks to such phenomenal film series as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, audiences expect their fantasy films to provide a thorough and faithful homage to their favorite literary works. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has all the big-budget flash and tedious length associated with the aforementioned fantastic epics, but fails to balance the glitz with any substantial emotion or story. The beautifully crafted wardrobe housed a myriad of bedazzling furs, and in that respect ‘Narnia the Movie’ is similar; filled and trimmed with the same splendid yet hollow quality.

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