C.S. Lewis' classic tale hits the screen with all the splendor and magic it deserves.
The fantasy begins with a British mother sending her four children out of danger during war, by putting them on a train to stay with a reclusive professor in the country side.
When they arrive at the grand mansion, a caretaker tells them to be quiet and not touch anything. But, the youngest girl, wide-eyed Lucy (Georgie Henley) urges her slightly older brother Edmund (Skandan Keynes), older sister Susan (Anna Popplewell) and eldest brother Peter (William Moseley) to play a game of hide and seek to pass the time.
Lucy hides in a large wardrobe in one of the many rooms, and as she snuggles deep into the old fur coats hanging there, she falls out of the back into a snow covered magical forest named Narnia.
It's a place that appears to be safe and beautiful, but is actually filled with all kinds of danger for little Lucy and siblings. She befriends a faun who takes her to his home for hot chocolate, but he is beholden to the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) the self-appointed Queen of Narnia, and she wants all of the children dead.
The Witch is a young woman dressed all in white, with pale flawless skin, no eyebrows and white-blond hair piled high on her head. But, looks are deceiving, she begins sweet and caring to entice her victims, and then turns hateful and deadly.
Lucy gets her brothers and sister to join her in the strange land. The book and film alike have a religious tone in that good versus evil, but the children are not alone in their struggle against the Witch. The majestic Lion, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) and his army are just over the river, ready to help protect them.
Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) has produced a spectacular looking film. Joining live action with CGI, the characters are made up of a pack of snarling wolves, talking beavers, unicorns, satyrs, fauns and every manner of weird creatures, who stand side by side with their comrades to fight the opposition to the death.
Some of the action is quite intense and a couple of the best scenes involve a frozen river that is breaking underfoot as the children try to cross with a pack of vicious wolves at their heels, and a huge climatic battle that pits the Lion and his army against the Witch and hers.
Swinton is terrific as the Witch, one minute she's sweet and the next she's evil incarnate, bloodthirsty in her quest for power.
Although rated PG, I believe it deserves a PG-13 for violence especially because the children are in harm's way throughout the film.
This is a truly enjoyable adaptation of the first of C.S. Lewis' seven chronicles published in 1950, I predict many more to come.