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Can a Christ-like lion out-roar a lovesick ape and a boy wizard at the box office?
As Hollywood prepares to release a mixed bag of holiday season blockbusters, critics and Christians wonder what reception awaits a new movie based on C.S. Lewis’ "The Chronicles of Narnia."
Opening Friday, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" brings to the screen the best-known of Lewis’ seven-volume series of beloved children’s novels which have sold 85 million copies in 29 languages.
It faces box office competition from Peter Jackson’s chest-thumping remake of "King Kong" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" which has topped attendance charts since opening two weeks ago.
Directed by Andrew Adamson and produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, "Narnia" transforms Lewis’ simply-written tale of faith and redemption into a gorgeously crafted $150 million fantasy epic.
It arrives at multiplexes across the nation about the same time as "Syriana" and "Munich," somber contemporary dramas about global terrorism.
Published in 1950 by a retiring British professor Clive Staples Lewis, the "Narnia" tales send four Pevensie children on an fantastic journey through a magical realm where the godly lion Aslan battles the sorceress Jadis to free his land from eternal winter.
Hmmmmm. Compared to a big ape who goes bananas for blondes and teenage wizards wrestling with raging hormones and Lord Voldemort, Lewis’ allegory of sacrifice and resurrection might seem like a bad investment.
However Glenn Kenny, movie critic for Premiere magazine, thinks "Narnia" largely succeeds as "family entertainment" for both kids and Christians.
"’Narnia’ plays well. It scrupulously maintains its family-film quality. It’s interesting that it’s well-crafted with lots of battle scenes but very little blood," he said.
Kenny said the movie "Narnia" doesn’t dilute "the Christian allegorical stuff" of Lewis’ tale but never gets as dark as last year’s "Lord of the Rings" or as gruesome as "The Passion of the Christ."