Cud­dly do-rights

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

‘NARNIA MAY still have need of you.” These are among the last words that the Peven­sie chil­dren hear be­fore, as the clos­ing cred­its loom, they are dis­patched back to the real world. I wouldn’t bet on it, kids.

Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox rolled the dice when, fol­low­ing mildly dis­ap­point­ing box-of­fice re­turns for Prince Caspian, the stu­dio took over the third part of the Narnia fran­chise from Dis­ney.

The Voy­age of the Dawn Treader is not a ter­ri­ble film. It’s more co­her­ent, in­fin­itely bet­ter plot­ted and con­sid­er­ably more ac­tion­packed than, say, the most re­cent Harry Pot­ter pic­ture. But it does look a wee bit cheap, and the re­lent­less moral­is­ing of CS Lewis’s orig­i­nal text is be­gin­ning to wear very, very thin. If I were one of the ju­ve­nile ac­tors, I’d have a back-up plan in mind.

The fam­ily has been bro­ken up. The two el­dest chil­dren have been sent to the US, while the two youngest find them­selves bil­leted with Eus­tace Scrubbs (the ex­cel­lent Will Poul­ter from Son of Ram­bow), a badly be­haved cousin, in the out­skirts of Cam­bridge.

Get­ting over the pre­lim­i­nar­ies rapidly, Michael Apted’s film pro­pels the ju­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tives – Ge­orgie Hen­ley and Skan­dar Keynes re­turn as Lucy and Ed­mund – into a paint­ing of a lonely ship on a sprawl­ing sea. Be­fore long, they are ac­com­pa­ny­ing King Caspian (Ben Barnes) on his quest to re­cover a bunch of magic swords, re­pel a mys­te­ri­ous green mist and res­cue a group of ter­rorised is­lan­ders from ob­scure op­pres­sion. As­lan the lion (voiced by Liam Nee­son) pops in for a chat. Eus­tace gets turned into a dragon. You know the sort of thing.

There’s noth­ing wrong with old-fash­ioned en­ter­tain­ment, but the new film, un­like the epic first part and the brood­ing Prince Caspian – feels old in the way that damp socks, shops closed on a Sun­day, con­gealed fruit gums and bus seats that smell of cig­a­rettes feel old. As­lan is an­i­mated with such scruffy econ­omy that two men in a thread­bare lion suit may as well have taken the role.

And then there’s the God­both­er­ing preach­i­ness. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. If I wanted to be told off in this man­ner I would have at­tended my lo­cal Free Pres­by­te­rian Church.

“In your world I have an­other name,” the lion de­ity in­tones. Is it Simba by any chance?

Voy­age to the bot­tom of the box-of­fice: Lucy (Ge­orgie Hen­ley) on the Dawn Treader

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