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Director (and co-screenwriter) Andrew Adamson, a veteran of the Shrek franchise, knows his way around a fantasy-based adventure story, and he wisely keeps the story moving when it could easily become bogged down and tiresome. Narnia is, of course, a Christian allegory and the symbology is definitely there (as it should be, otherwise it wouldn't be the story Lewis wrote), but audiences aren’t knocked over the head with it, and in the hands of another director it could easily have become pedantic. The focus is squarely on the children and their adventures. The four young actors are respectable in their roles, especially considering the size of the project put on their shoulders, but it's the young Georgie Henley as the curious Lucy who stands out. This isn't a film that wildly succeeds, and in the long run it won't have the same impact as the Harry Potter franchise, but it is well done, and kids will get swept up in the adventure. Note: Narnia does contain battle scenes that some parents may consider too violent for younger children. --Dan Vancini
More exciting than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian continues the movie franchise based on C.S. Lewis' classic fantasy books. The movie picks up where the first left off... sort of. It's been a year since the Pevensie children--Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley)--returned to England from Narnia, and they've just about resigned themselves to living their ordinary lives. But just like that, they're once again transported to a fantastical land, but one with a long-abandoned castle. It turns out that they are in Narnia again--and they themselves lived in that castle, but hundreds of years ago in Narnia time. They've been summoned back to help Prince Caspian (Stardust's Ben Barnes, resembling a young, cultured Keanu Reeves), the rightful heir to the throne who's become the target of his power-hungry uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). And he's not the only one threatened: Miraz's people, the Telmarines, have pushed all the Narnians--the talking animals, the centaurs and other beasts, the walking trees--to the brink of extinction. Despite some alpha-male bickering, Peter and Caspian agree to fight Miraz alongside the remaining Narnians, including the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard). (Also appearing is Warwick Davis, who was in Willow and the 1989 BBC version of Prince Caspian.) But of course they most of all miss the noble lion, Aslan, who would have never let this happen to Narnia if he hadn't disappeared.
Prince Caspian is epic, evoking memories of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. (Some of the battle elements may seem too familiar, but they were in Lewis's book.) And it's appropriate for kids (Reepicheep could have come out of a Shrek movie), though the tone is dark and there is a lot of death, albeit bloodless. After two successful films, Disney and Walden Media's franchise has proved successful enough that many of the characters are scheduled to return in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. --David Horiuchi, Amazon.com