The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (deep breath) leaps to the big screen with an armload of digital effects, a blockbuster director (Andrew Adamson of Shrek) and a whole lot of marketing. (Contrary to how some are pushing it, I never particularly read the Narnia series as a Christian propaganda manual and am a bit put off by Disney's overselling of it as that, but that could easily be a topic for another article, I think.)
From a fan's perspective, I found Narnia fulfilling, but not quite inspiring. It reminds me a bit of the first two Harry Potter movies — dutiful, nice to look at, but it doesn't stick with you as much as it could.
Wardrobe, the first in seven Narnia books written by C.S. Lewis, is the tale of four stalwart WWII-era young British children who wander through a wardrobe into a magical world. The land of Narnia is under the spell of an evil White Witch (played superbly here by Tilda Swinton, all glam-rock menace and slightly sexy allure), who has kept the land in winter for a hundred years. The good animals and beasts of Narnia await the return of the true lord of the land, the lion Aslan, who it is said will defeat the witch with the aid of four young human children. When Peter, Lucy, Susan and Edmund stumble into Narnia, it looks like the prophecy is coming true.
Director Adamson has one of the great stories as fertile material for his film, and in the first half of the movie, he does a fine job evoking Narnia's wintry charm. The special effects are solid, and, for once, a movie has made talking animals seem somewhat realistic. The child actors, all unknowns, have to carry the bulk of the tale, with Skandar Keynes (as the treacherous Edmund) the best of them, all dark-eyed envy and fear. The older two children are sometimes a bit too stoic and stiff, particularly William Moseley as the eldest, Peter.