Narnia's Sibs Shine

Outtakes Brief

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Although it gets off to a decidedly slow start (grounded in a drab WWII British reality that will tax the patience of many a younger viewer, as well as a few of their adult guardians), this big-screen adaptation of C.S. Lewis' beloved book turns out to be pretty smashing entertainment.

Things begin picking up about 20 minutes into the film, when our four heroic young siblings stumble into the film's magical realm of talking animals, evil queens, fauns, gryphons, centaurs, satyrs, Cyclopses and, at one point, even a stripped-down Kris Kringle. The sheer profusion of fantastical beasties on display is worth the proverbial price of admission, all nicely rendered through state-of-the-art CGI, with a few charmingly primitive touches here and there of plastic and papier mâché.

It all culminates, as if you couldn't guess, in a massively proportioned Lord of the Rings-lite battle royale between the forces of good and evil, but hey, you could do a lot worse. The movie's heart is in the right place, it looks mostly wonderful, and Neo-Cons will want to pounce on the not-so-latent allegory found here for the imperative upon freedom-loving individuals to liberate exotic foreign lands from tyrants.

The rest of us will be staring at the magnificent Tilda Swinton, one of the few women alive who can look imposing with a bunch of dopey icicles stuck to her head. Also stars Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, William Moseley, James McAvoy and Jim Broadbent.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (PG) opens Dec. 9 at local theaters. *** 1/2

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