A Look Back: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Wacky things tend to happen in youth-directed fantasy books (that then get turned into movies). Whole houses get ripped off their foundations and whirled away to faraway places populated by the vertically challenged. Attempts to elude one’s siblings playing hide-and-seek bring one into a wondrous world where it is always winter. If you read such books/watch such movies when you are old enough to “know better,” you might think – what a creative conceit. If you aren’t, however, you might think – hey, maybe that could happen to me one day. The second example which is, of course, C.S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and its debut book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” came out in 2005 which was too late for me to have the first reaction, but even not being a kid wasn’t a handicap to greatly enjoying it.

Y2K was, in fact, an interesting year for Narnia, although I’m not sure what C.S. Lewis’s reaction would be to the “Lazy Sunday” rap performed by Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg which at first attracted little notice on “Saturday Night Live,” but then took off due to YouTube. Also author Lev Grossman “borrowed” (to put it nicely) the whole Narnia concept for his adult fantasy series “The Magicians,” which became successful enough to have its own TV series. Anyway, “Lazy Sunday,” was good publicity for the movie which stayed faithful to the books. However, the seven-part series seems to have stalled after the third, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” came out, perhaps due to the need to keep finding fresh actors (the characters are only allowed to visit Narnia a few times before puberty disqualifies them – the guy in charge of Narnia – a lion named Aslan – is a spoilsport that way).

In the first installment, four plucky British youngsters: William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley, are evacuated from London during the Blitz while their father is away fighting and sent to stay with an eccentric (is there any other kind?) bachelor (Jim Broadbent) in the countryside who has a home with some very odd aspects. While playing hide-and-seek one rainy day, the youngest (Georgie) hides in the titular wardrobe, where she discovers a land, Narnia, where it is perpetually winter – due to a curse by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). This takes a New Englander’s worst nightmare – what if spring never came – and explores it with Biblical overtones (although they can be safely ignored if you choose). Thanks to a friendly Faun (James McAvoy), Georgie learns that this deep freeze can only be ended by the arrival of four mortal children. There is also the┬átitular talking lion (voiced by Liam Neeson) who will help the four with their quest when they finally all get on the same page, arrive in Narnia together, and seek him out for help.

Of course, there are obstacles to overcome, including being swept away by a melting river, as the curse is breaking, a war between Good and Evil – the latter led by Tilda who has a wand that turns everything in its path to stone, and the treason of their brother (Skandar) who goes astray when Tilda offers him some awfully tempting magical candy. But the young heroes prevail. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” is a good movie to watch in the dead of winter, as a reminder that yes, one day, even the deepest banks of snow will sometime melt away – at least until next year.



Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

(With all the show tunes in the movie, I left feeling poetical.)

Warning: The following may contain spoilers.

“Hail Caesar!” proudly flaunts its exclamation point,
Though it may seem way too cute
In the tradition of comedies like “Airplane!”
And “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”

In it, Josh Brolin plays a fifties Hollywood exec,
A good Catholic by the name of Eddie Mannix.
However, by the time his day’s half through,
He’ll be ready to chug a bottle of Xanax.

You see, George Clooney, his lead actor is missing
And boy, does that make those in the film involved pissed
But as it turns out, they need not worry,
For George is squirreled away in a den of amiable Communists.

Because his latest film is Biblical in scope,
Josh meets with a rabbi, a prelate and a priest
To split hairs about the origin of Our Father
Of all his issues today, this will be the least

Meanwhile, comely mermaid, Scarlett Johansson, is irked,
As she’s in the family way
But without a ring on her finger,
She – and Josh – are not having a good day.

Alden Ehrenreich, who excels at playing cowboys,
Finds himself on the set of a period piece, suddenly feeling blue
With ultra-fussy director, Ralph Fiennes, wringing his hands
Every time he flubs a cue.

Channing Tatum, on the other hand,
Is having a gay old time
Tap dancing up a storm as a just conscripted Marine
With other young men in their prime.

But Josh finds himself pestered by twin reporters
Played amusingly by Tilda Swinton
Planning to spill the beans about a secret of George’s
In order to help her career or maybe just for fun.

However, he can’t stop to tarry too long
For he’s received a note demanding George’s ransom
From “The future,” but luckily Alden comes to his aid,
Proving he’s more than just handsome.

But before that, Alden has a date that night
Arranged with an actress with cheeks like peaches
They go to a premiere, then a hip restaurant
Where they sing “Glory of Love,” from “Beaches.”

After that, it’s time for Alden to track down George
Which luckily, he can achieve,
Prying George away from his newfound buddies, though
Is more difficult, as it makes George peeved.

One problem of Josh’s however resolves itself
When he introduces Scarlett to a shady but awed Jonah Hill
They wind up hitting it off
Though Josh is in the doghouse with his wife, Alison Pill.

He’s being tempted by a cushy job offer
Much less stressful than this one, no joking,
With all of this, he’s definitely picked
The wrong week to quit smoking

In the end, Josh manages to stave off Tilda
Then slaps into George a little more sense
Which inspires him to new heights of acting
Though he remains pretty much dense.

After all this, Josh takes a break
And heads for Confession
Where ultimately, he decides,
That he already is in the right profession.