Disclaimer: I have not read any Narnia book; I walked into the theatre armed only with a few trailer viewings.
With the impressive fantasy film success being enjoyed by Warner Bros. (Harry Potter) and New Line (Lord of the Rings), it was inevitable that Disney would paw through literature for its own cash cow. Having decided to milk CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, it is now up to the audience to decide if this film can command the same kind of success.
A straightforward fantasy, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the story of four children sent to the countryside during World War II to escape the bombing of London. While playing a game of hide-and-seek one afternoon the youngest girl, Lucy, (Georgie Henley) finds an old wardrobe. When she hides inside she finds a doorway to a magical world called Narnia. She meets a Faun  named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who is surprised and somewhat afraid to run into a daughter of Eve. Lucy comes back to England after a spot of tea and finds out no time passed in the real world while she was away – very convenient.
There is a short and undeveloped period where the other children find no magical world, but soon enough the younger boy, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) passes beyond the closet and meets the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). She is obviously evil but the boy is so easily bribed with candy that he doesn’t notice. No points for guessing that the destiny of the four children involves freeing Narnia from evil and the witch will try to kill the children. They team up with a menagerie of talking animals lead by a lion named Aslan (Liam Neeson) to thwart her plans and take their rightful places as the kings and queens of the land (while a brother and sister being king and queen may be innocent enough in theory, it seems creepy to my 31 year old mind.)
However, this movie was not made for 31 year old minds that have not read the books. Yes, the film is whimsical. It is well made. It is even fun. I dig the talking animals. I chuckled at Santa Claus handing out weapons and potions. I can get behind the fantasy of four children destined to rule a mythical kingdom. But something keeps me from gushing.
It is certainly not the execution. The film looks great, the special effects are as seamless as can be achieved by current technology, and the actors do what is required to carry the story. It is not because of the underlying Christian allegory. So what is the problem?
I will allow that my expectations were incorrect but this movie does not feel epic. It is a children’s story played out in a saccharine playground of immature drama and I was never absorbed. Perhaps this has less to do with the source material than decisions made for the screen but hear me out.
Nobody dies in this movie. Aslan is sacrificed but comes back to life (dying for Ed’s sins and all.) Everybody “killed” by the White Witch is not dead, but merely waiting to be raised by the feline Christ. When Mr. Tumnus is turned into a statue, there is no emotion comparable to Boromir dying in Fellowship of the Ring, because he is simply revived later. There is no blood, either. Not during the sacrifice. Not when Edmund gets stabbed. Not during the massive battle. I am not condoning gratuitous violence, but to have the two armies clash without a single drop of blood is too conservative. The decision was no doubt made to maintain a PG and make sure the intended audience could fill the theatre, but the movie suffers as a result. It feels too clean, too sanitized, too Disney.
The movie is obviously hitting the right notes with a lot of people as only King Kong was able to best it at the box office – maybe the inevitable sequel can up the ante. If you loved the books as a kid (or are a kid) you will see this movie regardless of anyone’s opinion and enjoy it. For the rest of you, even if I cannot cop to enjoyment, I will confess to appreciation and recommend checking it out.
 Think dude with goat feet but not the devil.