December 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Review: 'Dawn Treader' is best of so-so 'Narnia' lot

Tom Long reviews 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Vo...
Tom Long reviews 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Vo...: 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, Gary Sweet, and Terry Norris.

There's not near as much violence and this film is nearly a half hour shorter than its predecessor, so those are positives.

But "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is still very much a "Narnia" movie. In other words, it's filled with fantastical creatures, bloodless battles, quasi-mystical undercurrents and an unfortunate helping of hooey.

Still, director Michael Apted does at least bring a sense of humor to this outing while cutting down on the battlefield overkill, making for the best of the "Narnia" films yet, although that's not saying much.

The biggest change here is that the older two of the Pevensie children have grown themselves right out of the franchise, so we're down to Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley, always the best of the group). For the purposes of much needed comic relief, they are joined by obnoxious cousin Eustace (Will Poulter from "Son of Rambow").

Somehow the three are sucked into a painting and end up sailing the seas of Narnia with Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), searching for some missing swords which, when joined together, will destroy a deadly force threatening to take over the fantasy world.

Our heroes are tempted by riches, terrified by a dragon, pummeled by storms and nonchalantly interact with a talking rat and a sailor who looks like a buffalo. Such are the charms of Narnia.

More importantly, the exceptionally cute Lucy goes through some pre-teen consciousness-raising while envying her older sister's beauty, eventually realizing we are all beautiful inside. Such are the lessons of Narnia.

But in the end, "Dawn Treader" (and seriously — Dawn Treader?) lacks the emotional heft and metaphorical impact of a greater fantasy like "Lord of the Rings." Right, wrong or both, "Narnia" is kid stuff.

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Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie rides the Dawn Treader in the latest “Narnia” adaptation. / Fox Walden