I was a sophomore at Ka‘ahumanu Hou when I played Peter in a traveling production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. During one performance, I was in the middle of an on-stage battle with my friend Lena, playing the White Witch, when she knocked my sword out of my hand (which was in the script) and sent it hurtling into some kid in the front row (which wasn’t). Thankfully, the boy shrugged it off with Zen-like grace and kept watching the show (if you’re reading this all these years later, thank you whoever you are, and I hope it didn’t turn you off to sword fights or live theater).
I thought about that kid while watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third Narnia film after The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian and the first to be shown in 3-D—which makes getting slammed in the face with a broad sword far less painful.
This time, only two of the Pevensie children, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edward (Skandar Keynes), are whisked away from their normal life to join Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) on a high-seas adventure. A new addition is Cousin Eustace, an irritating character overplayed by Will Poulter who is meant to serve as comic relief. Instead, he’s the film’s Jar Jar Binks, though he becomes tolerable in the third act when he (literally) loses his voice. The rest of the kids are photogenic but wooden, and once again Aslan the lion (voiced by Liam Neeson) and Reepicheep the swashbuckling mouse (voiced by Simon Pegg, replacing Eddie Izzard) are the most life-like and engaging characters.
The special effects are extraordinary throughout, but aside from a scary-looking sea monster this tame fantasy is suitable as a family holiday outing. There are good lessons about being grateful for who you are and realizing your potential, as well as some unobtrusive Christian allegories.
The Narnia movies continue to be pleasant and well made but underwhelming. Disappointing considering the source material: C.S. Lewis’s rich, beloved classics. Dawn Treader is less pretentious and a half-hour shorter than the latest Harry Potter, but it’s still cinematic déjà vu: another week, another movie about pasty-faced European kids entering a magical world populated by CGI creatures who out-act them at every turn.