At long last C.S. Lewis’ epic “Chronicles of Narnia” have made the transition from the page to the big screen.  However, one can’t help but
wonder whether it would have been a more triumphant event if it had come before Peter Jackson’s masterful “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  

“The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” will almost inevitably be compared to the current standard for the fantasy genre.  And “Narnia” just
isn’t as good.  That’s not to say it is not worth seeing though.

The film opens with the bombings of London during World War II.  The four Pevensie children are evacuated to the countryside to stay with
some professor guy.  They soon find themselves in a wild adventure in the magical world of Narnia when they stumble into an enchanted
wardrobe.  They meet all sorts of mythical creatures and animals, all of which can talk.  They must fulfill a prophecy and aid Aslan (a huge
Lion voiced by Liam Neeson) in the fight against the evil White Witch (A very good performance by the icy Tilda Swinton).

The first act of the film is a bit shaky because it is all about the children.  And this problem really doesn’t ever leave the film entirely.  With
the exception of little Lucy (Georgie Henley), who does a great job with that innocent, wide-eyed smile, the kids just aren’t great actors.  
They're Adequate, yes, but compare them to the “Harry Potter” kids and they falter.  Now we aren’t talking “Spy Kids” bad, or even bad at all,
but just not as good as I would have hoped.  The eldest three Pevensies are a bit on the stiff side to be honest.

Fortunately when they reach Narnia things improve quite a bit and about the point when they meet Aslan, the film actually becomes very
good and surprisingly emotional.  It definitely improves a lot as it goes on and finishes very strongly.  

Director Andrew Adamson of “Shrek” fame is certainly not afraid of CGI.  The animals are pretty funny and along with Neeson and Swinton
they pick up a lot of the slack for the kids in providing energy, emotion, and humor.  The final battle is loaded with so many different
creatures that you can’t help but admire the ambition.  As for the visual effects themselves, they range from just okay to ultra-realistic.  
Overall they work well enough.

The film is also in great debt to Harry Gregson-Williams’ wonderful score, which is among the best I’ve heard this year in terms of both
emotion and excitement.  The music during the final battle is jaw dropping and spectacular.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” may not be as phenomenal as some would have hoped.  However, it is a
good film and I would certainly go to see a sequel.  If you are a fan of fantasy at all, then you will not regret seeing “Narnia.”

* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Andrew Adamson

Written by: Ann Peacock and Andrew Adamson and
Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William
Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy

Cinematography by: Donald McAlpine

Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams

Released: December 9, 2005; 132 Minutes