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 titular 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.