Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey reviews the latest of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” adaptations to hit the screen, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”
If you part the roiling seas of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” and look beyond the good vs. evil religious allegories ever present in the C.S. Lewis stories, you will discover the best thing about the present voyage — a rat and a brat.
For fans of the series, that means the long tail of Reepicheep is back with Simon Pegg giving excellent voice to the swashbuckling rodent whose rapier wit is as erudite as his swordsmanship is sharp. Though the Reepster will be facing greater foes, his biggest challenge is taming Eustace (Will Poulter), the obnoxious young cousin whose family Lucy ( Georgie Henley) and Edmund ( Skandar Keynes) have been forced to bunk with him while the rest of the Pevensie clan is off doing more interesting things.
Alas, that is not enough to ensure smooth sailing for director Michael Apted‘s “Dawn Treader,” which could do with more devils in the details, including the 3-D, yawn, ones. As it is, our heroes are forced to battle it out with — GREEN MIST. See, it doesn’t even seem scary when it’s capitalized. As is the case with most fairy tales, particularly ones as well loved and well read as Lewis’ Narnia series, you know going in how it’s all going to turn out, but the richness of the story keeps you coming back. Lewis knew enough to stir up much more than mist in “Dawn Treader,” which is probably why it will be his that we remember.
Still, on the big screen Narnia continues to be a lovely place for families to visit for a while with its all-knowing lion king Aslan, whose reassuring rumble is once again provided by Liam Neeson, always promising a better world. The introduction of Eustace, and a spirited performance by young Poulter, helps. Though the boy is an irritant, he’s also an avid journal keeper, with his entries providing some of the more biting narrative in a film in sore need of it. But as significantly, he’s the non-believer in the group — nearly as powerful a narrative force as evil, for Narnia, like Tinkerbell, thrives on the notion of childhood belief…
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– Betsy Sharkey
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