Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe [1988]

In a misty London train station, four siblings await their journey to the country, a place to avoid the bombs of World War II, a place where one boy imagines nothing ever happens. As it turns out, the old professor's spooky country house is ripe for exploration. Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter's adventures begin when the back wall of a fur-coat filled wardrobe opens up into the magical world of Narnia, where, because of the malevolent White Witch's spell, it is "always winter and never Christmas." Before long, the children (the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve) are participating in an epic, allegorically Christian battle between good (Aslan the lion) and evil (as represented by the diabolical White Witch, played with wonderfully hideous zeal by Barbara Kellerman). The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, first published in 1950 and designed to be the second book chronologically in the Narnia series, was faithfully, painstakingly adapted into a BBC TV series, and then edited into a feature-length film in 1988. The snowy landscapes of Narnia are lovely, but youngsters accustomed to stunning silver-screen special effects may pooh-pooh this rather slow-moving, homespun production, with humans dressed like beavers, a large stuffed-animal-looking lion, and oddly patched-in Disneyesque animated winged creatures. Still, there's an arresting sweetness and simplicity to this fantasy adventure in two episodes (59 minutes and 110 minutes) that suit this old-fashioned, well-loved classic to a T. --Karin Snelson

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