The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (PG, 140 minutes)

Children 10 and older who know and love the "Chronicles of Narnia" books by C.S. Lewis will thrill to see this faithful film adaptation of the most famous book in the series. Others -- even some younger fans of Lewis's books -- may find "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" a bit long and occasionally rather heavy going. For a PG-rated film, it becomes very violent in its third act, as the good-vs.-evil battle for the mythic land of Narnia commences. Yet the film, despite all its computer-generated magic, has many old-fashioned charms, especially in its muted, storybook first half. Director Andrew Adamson allows no modernisms to taint the 1940s British tone or his excellent young actors.

In the book, the fighting between the monstrous minions (warthogs, wolves, other snarling creatures) of the White Witch and those of the good, all-knowing lion, Aslan, are not described in gory detail. The film strongly implies that both human and magical beings are pierced by arrows and spears and thwacked by maces. Though not bloody, the battle scenes approach the intensity of the PG-13-rated "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The film opens with a scary bombing raid on London during the Blitz, when the four Pevensie children and their mother barely make it to their shelter. Other themes deal with betrayal and loss. Plot giveaways: One boy appears to be badly wounded in battle, and Aslan is stabbed (off-camera) and appears to die. Both soon revive.

The Pevensie siblings, little Lucy (adorable Georgie Henley), cranky Edmund (Skandar Keynes), mature Susan (Anna Popplewell) and kind Peter (William Moseley) are evacuated from London to a professor's (Jim Broadbent) country mansion. Lucy crawls into an old wardrobe and finds a portal into the wintry, magical land of Narnia, populated by animals and mythical creatures that talk. Befriended by a faun named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), she learns that an evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) rules Narnia and has made it winter year-round but never Christmas. All four kids eventually go with Lucy to Narnia and join with Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson), the great spiritual, even Christlike, lion, to defeat the witch.

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