Thanks to my buddy Ross, I had a freebie to
go see "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the
Wardrobe" over at Mazza Gallerie earlier tonight.
Surprisingly, the theater was not stadium packed by the time the
flick started; I thought for sure there would be packs of Narnia
Nerds all over this joint!
And, kind of like the lack of hype that
preceded my local viewing of the film, I ended up underwhelmed by
the movie itself, too. A retelling of the first book in the
Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (books that I never read, a common theme
here at Bellview), this movie follows the adventures of four kids as
they discover a secret portal into the fantastic world of Narnia, a
place where common farm animals, minotaurs, dwarves and wolves all
co-exist (and in a blessed stroke of good fortune, everyone speaks
English). Apparently, a prophecy proclaims that if four humans
happen to enter the world at the same time, there's a chance that a
continuous, 100-year-old winter will end and the evil Queen of
Narnia (Tilda Swinton) can be defeated. So, after the kids
link up with an army led by a big lion named Aslan (voiced by Liam
Neeson), they embark on an adventure that begins and ends with a war
against the Queen's evil faction of orcs, demons, and other baddies.
And, we are certain to get more sequels as a result!
My man Chi and I took this flick in, and
both of us agreed upon leaving: there's something very normal, very
pedestrian about this film. I was surprised by this given how
good a trailer "Narnia" has; it truly feels epic in the trailer, the
kind of film that should draw comparisons to the "Lord of the Rings"
trilogy but has enough to establish itself on its own as a franchise
worth following to its completion. But once "Narnia" gets
going, that hope you have for a classic quickly dissipates; a
painfully slow starter, "Narnia" takes almost an hour to give us
anything worth caring about. This is because after the kids
discover the wardrobe in question, we have to follow the cute little
girl, Lucy (Georgie Henley), as she first enters the world and
befriends a half-horse-type guy--certainly, there's a name for this
creature, but damn if I know it--and then we have another scene that
takes ten minutes where Lucy goes back along with her brother Edmund
(Skandar Keynes). It is only when these two come back with
older siblings Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell)
that the beef of the film really begins, and if you catch this flick
late at night, someone in your crew is probably going to be asleep
by then. I know that Chi said to me around this time "How long
is this thing, anyway?"
This is not a good thing.
The second half of the movie is good, but
never great; again, the quest that the team is undertaking never
feels truly grand, so as a large-scale world with a small-time
mission (take down the Ice Princess!!!), I found myself hoping that
the Lion and his gang were going to eventually go after the Ring or
even Excalibur, you know what I mean? The chemistry between
the kids and their CGI counterparts--at times, either beavers, a
fox, or others--is okay, thanks to great acting by the voice actors
that are playing those computer-animated beings. As a family
film goes, "Narnia" has good action sequences but for anyone that
sees a big-scale battle being set up only to get a small dose of
swords-and-sandals action, you will be disappointed. For some
reason, swords, bloodless action and a PG rating just don't mix, so
these scenes didn't work for me much either. Finally, the blue
screen effects of environments seem to be rushed, or at least not
shot very well; sometimes, the backgrounds that the kids are
standing in front of look awfully fake. In an era where
producers can usually find a way to make us feel like we are there,
this is a strange inconsistency. Unfortunately for "Narnia",
Peter Jackson set the bar so high with his "LOTR" films that now,
when you have a group going on a quest, the film's cinematography
and the special effects just have to look amazing, and here, they
What did I like about this film? I am
hopeful that future films in this series don't have to spend so much
time setting up what will happen next. There are some great
laughs in "Narnia" and its strange relationship with a religious
subtext (many would argue that "subtext" isn't quite the idea; more
like "readily apparent" or "obvious to a blind man") makes some of
the movie more interesting. Anytime you get Neeson to work on
your film, it takes a step up; Swinton gives the bad girl role her
all and she is fun to watch. I'll grant you that Henley is
cute for a while, but as she is crying in about half of her scenes,
she wore on me a bit.
The best thing about "Narnia" for me?
Imagination. Fantasy films for me don't always work as movies
but always get my mind churning about the possibilities that a world
can present. That's the part that I like, the idea that you
could enter a dark corner of your house and be transported to
another world, another time, another culture. And, naturally,
give you the chance to hang out with English-speaking polar bears.
This was not as good as I had hoped but for free, or for a $6
afternoon show, I think that you will like this enough to sit
through it. Just be sure to hit the bathroom before this one;
at about 140 minutes, this one ain't short.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard