Review of 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe'

NEW YORK – The new Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is a delightful family-friendly movie for any age. Its Christian undertones inspire faith and color the film with greater depth.

Though Disney's latest movie will open in theaters nationwide Friday, Dec. 9, church-based fans have already turned out in force at several previews. Focus on the Family’s entire Colorado-based team of 700 employees saw the film in November, and Saddleback Church bought out 20,000 seats and filled up every single movie theater in Lake Forest, Calif., to watch the movie a few days early. At a Dec. 6preview in Manhattan, N.Y., sponsored by publisher Harper Collins, hundreds filled the darkened theater to watch the film that some say teaches about Christ.

Narnia has few of the kind of fast-paced action sequences, intense emotional experiences, and dramatic landscape shots we’ve come to know and expect from blockbuster films (i.e. Matrix, Passion of the Christ, or Lord of the Rings).

For example, the battle between Peter's forces and the witch's was satisfying, and the children's tumult through ice-cold rapids exhilarating, but some more of those action sequences could’ve added to the wonder and magic of what has been called the most anticipated film in history for Christians.

It may just be this absence of blood, gore, and chilling details that will make this a classic children’s film in any parent’s must-have collection.

The Narnia film is faithful to the book’s storyline down to its opening scene, where air bombs are falling on war-ridden Great Britain. Four children, running from the war, arrive at a mansion in the countryside and find a magic wardrobe while playing hide-and-seek. Their adventures in the land of Narnia through the wardrobe bring them face to face with their own shortcomings. But it is their triumph over sin out of love for each other that makes the film’s climatic end satisfying.

Though faithful, the movie lacks the epic quality of the book when edited to just two hours long. What was a very long and fateful journey to Stone Table turned into minutes of switching scenes. The druids or talking trees were missing, and the giants were rather unenchanting.

But there is rich cinematography that may coincide with the mind's eye. The witch's ice cold demeanor is matched by her ice crown and palace. The movements of Aslan the Lion are believable, and its voice and growl resonate realistically. The centaur, the faun, and the unicorn are all realistic, but need more character building.

Based on the popular children’s novel written by C.S. Lewis, a reputable theologian born at the turn of the last century, the film's Christian bedrock shone through. It is spiritually uplifting and embodies grounded theology and Biblical references. The makers clearly sought the opinions of Christians.

In the end, it is the humanity of the children that will capture an audience. Lucy is charmingly impulsive. Susan is loyal and cautious. Peter is judgmental but courageous. And all can empathize with Edmund as the fallen one. These children, who are so classically flawed and in need of God's grace are what bring out the classic story’s inspirational qualities.