Delight on the small screen

02 November 2006


THE PRODUCERS of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have bundled together an impressive package of extras for the DVD release of the film, just in time for Easter.

The most important thing, though, is the chance to see the film again. The good news is that it survives a second viewing. Somehow, divorced from the "Chronicles of Narnia" pomp of the film's cinema release, it comes across as more straightforward and decent.

As our original reviewer remarked ( Arts, 9 December 2005), the dialogue in the film is too much in awe of the book. There were just a few Shrek-like outbreaks (the director, Andrew Adamson, had cut his teeth on the Shrek films), particularly with the Beavers, and the talking horse ("My name is Philip"); and the line that miraculously survived the Hollywood machine: "We're not heroes - we're from Finchley."

Away from a cinema audience, however, these moments matter less, and the adventure takes over.

Among the extras, there's an illuminating interview with the producer, who described how Adamson began by sketching out a treatment for the film based on his memory of reading the book as a child, before rereading it. This retained the dramatic balance of the story, since Lewis polishes off many of the biggest scenes in a few paragraphs.

The interviews also pointed up some bits that I'd missed, such as the fact that the wardrobe is carved with scenes from The Magician's Nephew, what would now be called the prequel. And in "the making of" scenes, it was enjoyable to watch how Georgie Henley, who played young Lucy, was led blindfold on to the set by the lampost, so that the cameras could capture her genuine delight at the snow scene.

It's a value judgement how much to show young children, though. Do they really want to see Mr Tumnus walking around with fluorescent green tights with red blotches, ready for his computer-generated goat's legs? Or see a small group of bulky men with remote controls operating the "muscles" in the head of one of the minotaur villains?

In a nerdy moment, it was good to see how the frozen waterfall scene was created on sets in three different countries. But in the end, the film's the thing.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney/Walden, two-disc DVD £24.99; single-disc DVD £20.99 (though offers are widespread).


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