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The Chronicles
of Narnia:
The Lion, The Witch
and The Wardrobe
(Two-Disc Collector's Version)

"You're the bestest daddy in the world!" my daughter screamed into the phone.

A little startled, I asked "why?"

Her voice got dramatic, as it often does. "Because you got me NARNIA!"

Up until that moment, I'd had no idea how much my seven year old had fallen in love with the movie. She had not gone with me to the screening back in December, but had gone with cousins while on vacation. But her excitement sure makes sense.

Though four children go into that wardrobe, the first one, the one most open to the wonder, is Lucy - who has to be, what, seven years old? Unlike Harry Potter, the Pevenseys also aren't there by an accident of birth.

Their personal tragedy is common, as Director Andrew Adamson takes pains to establish by opening with the Blitz. While sequestered in a country home, Lucy just happens to hide in that wardrobe.

It could happen to anybody, and that's as good a reason as any that for decades kids have been enchanted - enchanted, I say - by the Narnia books, specifically The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In case you'd missed the point that the film adapts the C.S. Lewis classic, many of the extras on the DVD remind you. In keeping with that spirit, so do we.

Seven is also a good age to become obsessive about a movie, and to want to know everything there is to know about it. Of course, a few older kids - like age 40 - might want to know, too. In both cases, the DVD release can satisfy with hours upon hours of documentaries and commentaries.

The cast gets in on the commentaries, a cute touch that kids might want to listen to. However, if you're looking for brilliant insights on acting, it doesn't get much deeper than "I was scared." Young Georgie Henley protests that she isn't that little and expounds upon the beautiful horse she learned to ride - kids might identify, but adults will wish they'd just listened to the other commentary.

Or not. In both commentaries Adamson adjusts his tone to his companions, but in truth, it's far more absorbing when separated into the documentary "Chronicles of a Director." As too often happens with commentaries, actual sequences go on too long for the anecdote or reasoning to keep babbling overhead.

The same goes for the "pop-up" trivia version, introduced by C.S. Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham. Though it does offer up some nice little tidbits, it also keeps running out of steam, popping up with repetitive pieces of information just to remind you it exists.

Separated out on the second disc, however, are the bevy of extras that should keep budding aficionados busy. The aforementioned "Chronicles of a Director" provides great insight into the process, but also helps us understand why Adamson was such a good choice to be the director. I'm struck by the side by side comparisons of Lewis' sparse descriptions of certain action sequences and the Director's choice to expand upon them - he was right.

It's also an honest piece. Isn't every adapter of a classic piece of literature really making the movie of their memory of the book?

On this disc, too, you can get a better appreciation of the real children playing the Pevenseys. They go through a little bit of the audition process, interspersed with footage of their getting to know each other. And, of course, they travel to Narnia.

This seems better and more appropriate than the blooper real, which is just a bunch of blown takes and giggling. Maybe it's me, but that's just not the same as the end of Cannonball Run II, and who knows if kids really find that amusing? As a friend observed, blooper reels only really work with a liberal dose of the "f" word, and that's (thankfully) not here at all.

Kids can also explore an in-depth look at the creatures and myths associated with Narnia. When you click on a creature, an intense narrator expounds upon it over a montage of illustrations from various stages of development - some from the books and some from the film's concept art archives.

Oddly, if you choose the wardrobe itself, the disc switches over to sketched icons rather than film stills, but that takes viewers to mini-documentaries on the making of that particular creature. I guarantee at least an extra hour of fascination.

The menu works pretty intuitively, which has often been a strong point for Disney DVDs. The studio also gets packaging, as this edition has one of the best presentations I've seen this year - simple yet elegant. Inside the ornate slipcover lies the wardrobe itself, which houses the two discs.

All the better to study its carvings, which I learned from one of the documentaries features scenes from The Magician's Nephew.

The DVD does what one should - actually heightened my appreciation for a movie I'd already liked. It was at least a five hour transformation, but still it happened. After all, I owe this movie a debt of thanks for making me the bestest daddy in the world.

But hey, I'm willing to share the title.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Derek McCaw

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