Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The enormously popular series of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis completely passed me by. As a result, I haven't viewed the two live-action movies through the same filter as his adoring fans. It is clear to me that he was a devoutly religious man and one who knew how to entertain children; witness the blockbuster a couple of years ago, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."

My first insight was the stage play "Shadowlands," which depicted the unexpected romance between confirmed bachelor C.S. Lewis and the brash American, Joy Gresham, based on his book "Surprised by Joy." When she is dying of cancer, evidently he wrote "The Lion..." as a comfort to her young son. I know the hospital scene on stage was goose bumps all the way!

Like the first chapter of this series, this one stresses the importance of faith, belief in life after death, making (and keeping) commitments, and once again, it features the same four young stars who portray a royal family in the Kingdom of Narnia.

The movie starts, a la "Harry Potter," in a train station. This time, instead of King's Cross, the four Pevensie siblings are at the Strand, a London Underground stop. Like Potter, they are dressed in their school uniforms and are carrying their luggage, ready for a new school year. A sudden fierce wind whisks them to Narnia, and they pick up where they left off in the first movie. Of course, it is over a thousand years later in Narnia, although only a year has passed in "London" time. (Always remember to suspend disbelief when watching a movie. It's vital!) In fact, when Caspian first learns who they are, he puzzles for a moment, then says, "I thought you'd be older..."

It is clear that the producers have every intention of continuing this franchise. It had a huge budget with production offices in Prague, Rumania and New Zealand (they obviously used Peter Jackson's special effects geniuses because many effects resemble the eye-popping "look" of "Lord of the Rings"). They cast charismatic leads, particularly the new guy Ben Barnes ("Stardust") who plays Caspian. He looks like a younger brother of Keanu Reeves, and I mean that in a GOOD way...

There is a welcome addition of Peter Dinklage ("Death at a Funeral" and "Elf") who is the skeptical and much-maligned leader of the dwarfs ("dwarves?"). He never fails to dominate his scenes and I am always happy when he appears.

For the children: Lots of battles with animatronic creatures assisting our heroes, lots of humor, particularly a clever little critter called "Reepacheep" voiced by Eddie Izzard, who reminded me of "Puss in Boots" voiced by Antonio Banderas in "Shrek." Never fear, Aslan the Lion is back, once again featuring the voice of Liam Neeson.

For the older children: Huge budget, huge cast, lots of special effects, lots of sword fights, more humor, many appealing stars and dastardly villains, and an involving story. It looks like another winner...