Who's in It:
Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy
The Basics: Four siblings discover the magical land of Narnia — a place where it's always winter but never Christmas — and with the help of a Christ-like lion named Aslan, battle the wicked queen who rules over it. And yes, there's a death and a resurrection but you don't have to sit through R-rated, Aramaic-language torture scenes to get to it.
What's the Deal? In The Wizard of Oz, there's that moment when Dorothy leaves her black-and-white house and first steps foot into Technicolor Oz. It's one of the most spectacular transformation sequences in the movies. And you hope that sort of whoosh will happen when the kids in this movie stumble into snowy Narnia, but it doesn't. And that's really the biggest problem here — it's not quite as magical as it could be.
OK, Magical Enough, Then: There's plenty to like — the snowy effects are great but not overbearing; Swinton's icicle witch's crown looks lethal; the happily helpful badgers are sweet but not sappy; McAvoy is warm and adorable as the good-hearted faun, Mr. Tumnus; and the two youngest kids in the story have great, expressive faces and a lot more presence than their stiff older siblings.
Lost in Translation: American audiences used to a certain brand of smart-aleck child actor may find the old-fashioned Britishness of these kids a little odd to behold, but it works here. And they're enticed by the idea of eating sardines on toast and a candy called Turkish Delight that looks red and gooey and unlike anything kids in the States would devour on a regular basis.
Dear Atheist Pals … You, too, will enjoy this story, even if it is a parable about the life of Jesus based on Christian writer C.S. Lewis' beloved book. It's not like the Bible has talking animals or anything, so you can easily pretend it's not what it is.