At the height of the London Blitz, the four Pevensie kids are evacuated to a country house where there are many rooms. In one is a wardrobe. During a game of hide and seek Lucy, the youngest, finds that the wardrobe leads to the magical world of Narnia. But Narnia needs the help of all four Pevensies if the White Witch’s winter spell is to be broken and the real lord of Narnia, Aslan the Lion, is to return. Growing up has never been easy and once in Narnia, the youngsters have some learning to do – about themselves and the strange new land. A land of talking beavers and friendly fauns - but also a place where it’s always winter and never Christmas. A place where a White Witch wants to set her wolves on the four Pevensies.
Who’d have thought that Oxford’s C S Lewis and the Kiwi director of CGI hits Shrek and Shrek 2 would make such a good team? But Adamson does the clever thing of letting Lewis’ story work its own magic, while adding beautifully rendered visuals. Playing it straight, though, doesn’t mean doing it dull and reverential. Adamson’s woven in some excellent moments of humour – the kids kidding each other, and the talking animals getting some good one-liners. He’s helped too by a solid cast, the four Pevensies spot-on, especially Georgie Henley as Lucy, spirited, amusing and happily never mawkish. With quality voice talent from Ray Winstone and Dawn French (Mr and Mrs Beaver), Rupert Everett (a faithful fox) and Liam Neeson purring to perfection as Aslan, Lewis’ creations are well-served. And Tilda Swinton makes herself icily felt as the Witch.
Adamson’s impeccable CGI credentials don’t disappoint either. The photo-real Aslan is all you’d hope and the blending of animatronics, CGI and live action is expertly done. And the climactic battle is effective if overlong, rightly avoiding the visceral (Lord of the Rings) and opting for straightforward action-adventure, befitting the tone of the book.
Enchanting, funny, beautiful to look at and just about action-packed enough to keep most ages amused, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a great way to end the year.