Somewhere to the west of Candy Land’s Gumdrop Mountains and just south of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry lies the mystical land of Narnia, where trees can dance, badgers are top chefs and lions speak with the wisdom of Jedi Masters.
It’s also the sickly sweet backdrop of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” the second C.S. Lewis fantasy novel to be brought to the big screen, even though the characters and conundrums fall far short when compared to other meatier fantasy tales Hollywood has produced.
“Lord of the Rings” it’s not.
Rather, it’s “Lord of the Rings” light. If Frodo and his friends were a tankard of dark ale, the Previnse kids – the snotty Britshers once again called to save Narnia from (gasp!) big nosed Spanish conquistadors – would be a diet orange soda.
But, kids love Orange soda, don’t they?
In “Caspian,” the Previnse kids, who saved Narnia from the White Witch in “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe,” have been hanging out in wartime England for about a year when the bellowing of a magical horn brings them back into action.
But since time works differently in the land of talking animals, dwarfs and centaurs, they arrive three hundred years after they left.
In the interim, Narnia has fallen apart: humans have invaded their land treating the beasts…well, like beasts.
But there may be hope yet: Prince Caspian, a human royal nearly killed by his power mad uncle, has found himself in the woods, learning that the old fables about friendly talking animals are true – and they’re good cooks to boot!
Together, the Previnse kids and Caspian plan to save Narnia from Caspian’s meddling uncle and locate their missing God/head lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), who will roar once and make everything right again.
While kids will love the talking animals – especially one plucky, swashbuckling mouse voiced by comedian Eddie Izzard – and the dazzling special effects, adults may find themselves wondering just how these pompous brats from south London can single-handedly put on a “Braveheart” sized defense against a charging army without spilling a drop of blood.
We can also do without the lessons about the importance of faith, whether one’s God likes to sit on a cloud in the sky or sun his fur on a rock.
Much like Lewis’ work, his movies are laced with Christian themes – making “Prince Caspian” perfect for an afternoon matinee with the kids, preferably after a Sunday school lesson.
If your looking for something darker, stick to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Starring Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley and William Moseley. Directed by Andrew Adamson. Running time: 144 minutes. Rated PG for epic battle action and violence.