DVD Release Date:  April 4, 2006
Theatrical Release Date:  December 9, 2005
Rating:  PG (battle sequences, frightening moments)
Genre:  Family/Fantasy
Run Time:  132 min.
Director:  Andrew Adamson
Actors:  Tilda Swinton, Jim Broadbent, James McAvoy, Liam Neeson, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Rupert Everett, Ray Winstone, Dawn French

After months and months of eager expectation, families across America will now finally get to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Based on the beloved children's book by Christian apologist and theologian C.S. Lewis, the making of the film has been one of this year's biggest news stories in Christian circles. Devotees and casual readers alike have been excitedly gobbling up any and all information available on the film's production. The foremost question on everyone's mind: will the movie properly portray the underlying Christian themes of the book?

Lewis fans will no doubt cringe at some of the film's minor variances from the original book, but for the most part, the highly anticipated movie is true to its source material. Pevensie siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy (portrayed by William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley respectively), are evacuated from London to be kept safe from the German bombings during World War II, and sent to live in an old mansion in the English countryside. In a spare room of this enormous house, the children discover a wardrobe that leads them to the magical world of Narnia. Once there, the children discover their arrival was predicted by an ancient prophesy that foretold their coming would end the reign of the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton). The witch, who has set herself up as Queen of Narnia, keeps the land in a state of perpetual winter, and turns those who defy her into stone statues.

In many media interviews in recent months, director Andrew Adamson and others involved with Narnia's production have stated their intention to remain true to Lewis' original story and themes. But, of course, because film is a much different medium than a novel, there are some additions. The movie opens with a more detailed look at the children living through London bombings, and the emotional trauma of being evacuated and separated from their mother. Although this back-story was a mere page of the book, the extra perspective gives the film some additional depth and makes the children's characters that much more realistic. Extended battle sequences and chase scenes later in the film certainly add to the story's tension and conflict. Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis' stepson and manager of the Lewis estate, was on hand throughout the process to see that the film didn't stray from Lewis' vision.

One of Narnia's great strengths is the completely believable actors cast as the four Pevensie children. According to Adamson, it took 18 months to find exactly the right kids to portray the movie's leads. Likewise, Swinton shines as the icy queen Jadis, who holds Narnia in both the literal and figurative grip of winter. At first kind and sweet to the troubled Edmund, the witch wins the allegiance of the wayward sibling turning him against his brother and sisters. He soon learns the true horrible nature of the "Queen" however when he fails to follow her instructions to the letter.

In a theme as enduring as literature itself, Edmund's treachery, and then repentance remain at the core of the story. His redemption by Aslan the Lion, the true ruler of Narnia and the narrative's "Christ-figure," is perhaps the most intense and effective part of the film. Even though these themes are toned down a bit from the book, they are clearly present. Unfortunately the choice of Liam Neeson to voice the Great Aslan was a bit problematic, and often distracting from the story. For all his great talent, Neeson didn't sound like Aslan to me. Although the movie includes the famous line that Aslan "isn't a tame lion," Neeson's voice did not portray any of the formidable wildness you would have expected to hear in the great lion-king.