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(four disc Extended Edition)

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 150 minutes (four disc set), two audio commentaries, Narnia fact track, bloopers, featurettes, documentaries, art galleries

STUDIO: Disney/ Walden Media

RELEASE DATE: 12-12-2006

Reviewer's note: this review is a combination of the first DVD disc and the extended edition

C.S. Lewis has been read by millions of children over the decades. His most loved books are the seven book THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. After some low budget BBC TV productions, the first book (THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE) has made it to the big screen several years later. THE LORD OF THE RINGS has a very vast canvas where the Narnia books are sparse and can be adapted into a shorter running time and still be faithful to the original works. Shrek and Shrek 2 director Andrew Adamson effortlessly fits into the role for his very live action film as a director. Filmed in New Zealand with four kids that won't annoy you, Tilda Swinton, and a cast of New Zeland actors (in addition to the voice of Liam Nesson) make the first film in the Narnia series an enjoyable and magical adventure.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE opens up in World War II London under the nighttime bombing by the Germans. Four children (Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter) are sent to the country to live with a professor. During a game of hide and seek, Lucy finds the magical wardrobe that takes her to Narnia when she steps through it. The other three don't believe her at first until they step through the wardrobe. One will betray them to Jadis the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) and the other three children will be caught up in a war between the White Witch and the great lion Aslan. With great performances, beautiful scenery, magical settings, and a sweeping score, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA is as entertaining as THE LORD OF THE RINGS and Harry potter films.

As for the extended cut, I can't really tell much of what has been added (except for additional batle scenes) to make this from 135 to 150 minutes. The extended cut flows as good as the theatrical version. But the big plus for this extened edition are more extras and a companion guidebook (which was not included with my review copy of this set). You can play the film with a brief 20 second introduction by director Andrew Adamson. No, the extended cut isn't as different as any of the extended cuts of THE LORD OF THE RINGS films can be. So sit back and enoy Narnia for the first or next time as you wait for the next book in the series to be released in theaters within the next year or two. Yes, it is fun to see a talking lion with the voice of Liam Nesson.

VIDEO: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen)

The transfer is almost as nice as the first cut, but I notice the picture looks grainy at times and a little soft in places.. Thankfully the majority of the extras are on the second disc.

AUDIO: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 5.1 DTS, French 2.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround

Dialogue is clear and DTS fans will be pleased that a DTS track is included for the film in addition to the 5.1 Dolby Digital.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The first disc has a fun 5 minute blooper reel and two insightful audio commentary tracks for the film. Don't forget the Narnia Fact track which will pop up with facts during the film if you turn it on. The first audio commentary is with director Andrew Adamson, producer Mark Johnson, and production designer Roger Ford. It goes with insights on the production while the second audio commentary is from the point of view of the kids who starred in the movie. Director Admanson joins Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewll, and William Moseley for that fun track (Georgie is funny as she recounts how she liked eating pencils).

The second disc has a variety of featurettes, but the two long ones are the best of the bunch. Chronicles Of A Director is an excellent making of piece on Narnia and how Andrew Adamson saw the film. The Children's Magical Journey features interviews with the four kids who are the stars of the film as they recount their experiences making the film. Both of these documentaries feature scores of behind-the-scenes footage. Out of the 11 Creating Creatures featurettes, the ones on creating The Beavers and the look of the White Witch (see how they change costume during the film for Tilda Swinton) are my favorites. Cinematic Storytellers has interviews with eight key crew members, special effects people, production designer, the composer, and more. The best one of that lot is with the film's composer. Don't forget to find the hidden and brief featurette on Skandar Keynes doing the Turkish Delight scene.

From One Man's Mind is a too brief featurette on how C.S. Lewis came to write the Chronicles Of Narnia books. I expected more from this one and had it detailed like the Tolkien documentaries on THE LORD OF THE RINGS Extended Edition DVDs. I hope the disc producers go more in depth on Lewis for the next NARNIA film DVD.

Legends In Time recounts the events in the movie and some of the events not seen in the film. Explore Narnia is an interactive map that talks about key places featured in the film. Creatures Of Narnia provides key information on the 11 types of creatures in the movie.

Disc three has C.S. LEWIS: DREAMER OF NARNIA- a 75 minute documenty on Lewis and the Narnia books with interviews that include Lewis scholars, priests, the step-son of C.S. Lewis, a taxi driver that looks like Lewis, old friends of lewis and his wife, and actor Ben Kingsley. The doumentary has some interesting content, but it is wildly uneven and glosses over many important things.

Disc four features plenty of new behind-the-scens material that add to the content on disc two. VIZUALIZING THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE: THE COMPLETE PRODUCTION EXPERIENCE is an exhaustive 2 hour and 20 minute look at the whole process of making the film. ANATOMY OF A SCENE: BEHIND THE BATTLE is an almost eight minute featurette on the process of making the climatic battle. Art Of Narnia features three art galleries: Conceptual art, landscapes, and maquettes.

FINAL ANALYSIS: THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH , AND THE WARDROBE may not be as great as THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, but it is fantastic magical adventure for the whole family. Some of the extras including the new ones aren't bad and those waiting for more extras an extended cut will want this four disc set.  I do wish the C.S. Lewis documentary was better (but it was a better effort than the breif featurette on Lewis on disc 2).

this review is (c)12-5-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com