BY ROBERT HAMMERLE, special guest contributor to Hammervision
While the “Chronicles of Narnia” series has been enjoyable on a surface level, no one has ever accused it of having great emotional depth. They tantalize you with visions of great battles fought for great causes but seldom deliver. You know these kids are never going to get hurt, much less die, so none of the films have any real drama that infuses the “Harry Potter” movies.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” seemingly brings this exhausted series to a close, although I don’t think that was its stated intention. Saved by a rousing ending involving a battle with a hideous sea serpent (think “Release the Kraken” from this year’s “Clash of the Titans”), the rest of the film limped along in an inoffensively agreeable fashion.
Given the listless performances by the two principal characters, Georgie Henley and Skander Keynes as Lucy and Edmund, it is a minor miracle that the three “Narnia” films have generated the box office receipts that they have. While we are obviously supposed to root for them, they generate little reason to do so other than the fact that they are too cute to die. Preteens like my grandchildren like these films although even they do not find them memorable.
And while I am speaking of my grandchildren, I want to thank my granddaughter, Calen (age 9), for giving me the greatest Christmas gift a movie loving grandfather could receive, namely that she went to see the God awful “Yogi Bear” without me! Such a thoughtful gesture has to be met with an appropriate gift this Christmas morning.
But I must say that the most recent “Narnia” film does have a few rewards, the principal one being a spunky performance by Will Poulter as Eustace, the Pevensie siblings’ cranky young cousin. Eustace is an aggravating nuisance that breathes some needed life into this film, particularly when he mutates into a dragon that helps save the day.
As young Mr. Poulter displayed in the wonderful Indy movie “Son of Rambow” (2007), he has some clever comic timing. One can only hope that he is the centerpiece of any future “Narnia” movies should the producers try to squeeze a few more dollars out of the American market.
Another bright spot in the film comes from Simon Pegg, who provides the voice for the witty, never say die mouse, Reepicheep. It is a telling comment about “Narnia” that most of the meaningful emotional moments come from the interaction of a digitally created mouse and the dragon that he befriends.
Mr. Pegg is a genuinely funny actor, whether it be just the use of his voice as here or as an actor in the wonderfully acerbic parodies “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Hot Fuzz” (2007). Thanks to him, young Poulter and the accomplished director Michael Apted, “Narnia” tolerably holds together as it admittedly limps to its inevitable conclusion where the Penvensie children return home. Regardless, much like the “Transformer” movies, it is obviously wobbling on its last legs, and I think Hollywood would be well advised to let it rest in peace.