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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Collector's Edition

When Shrek director Andrew Adamson was approached to helm The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), he cracked open C.S. Lewis's classic source book for the first time since childhood. What he found there — or rather, what he didn't find there — surprised him. Where was the vast, sweeping climactic battle he remembered? Where were the clanging swords and fierce fighting? In his imagination, as it turns out. Adamson wasn't the only grown-up to revisit Lewis's series around the time of the film's release and end up somewhat disappointed by the author's spare, efficient prose, which sometimes skimps on descriptive detail in favor of advancing the plot. But that may really be the books' greatest strength. Children who read The Chronicles of Narnia are free to fill in any gaps with their own imagination — and directors and screenwriters are free to use theirs to create a vivid, exciting cinematic adventure. Which, with its big-budget effects and well-chosen cast, is exactly what The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is. From the moment the four Pevensie children — Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (cute-as-a-button Georgie Henley) — step through the door of the magical wardrobe they discover in the spare room of the English country house they've been sent to while German bombers devastate WWII London, the movie is every bit as engaging as any fan of the books could have hoped. Certain plot details have been tweaked and adjusted (the Pevensies' back story is significantly expanded, their precarious journey across a frozen river is new for the movie, and so on), but the heart of the story is just as Lewis wrote it: After finding their way to Narnia, the Pevensie children eventually join up with majestic lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) to battle the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton) so they can free the land from oppression and eternal winter. A myriad of talking beasts and mythical creatures join their cause, from conflicted faun Tumnus (James McAvoy) to bustling Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (voiced by Ray Winstone and Dawn French). The film doesn't shy away from the allegorical elements of Lewis's tale; the author was a devout Christian, and it's clear that Aslan is a stand-in for Jesus. But The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn't just for churchgoers — anyone who ever dreamed of finding their own way to a land of deep magic and talking animals is sure to get caught up in the Pevensies' adventure.

Bunea Vista's two-disc collector's edition DVD highlights the movie magic that went into bringing Lewis's story to life. The first disc includes the film itself (in a lovely 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, with an English DD 5.1 home theater audio mix, plus English, Spanish, and French 5.1 Dolby DTS tracks and French and Spanish subtitles), accompanied by a pop-up trivia track, a cute blooper reel, trailers, and a pair of audio commentaries. The first features Adamson and his four child stars, who are all eager to share their stories and memories; on the second, Adamson is joined by production designer Roger Ford and producer Mark Johnson for a more traditional chat. The bulk of the bonus features are on the second disc. Under "Creating Narnia" are several interesting, well-made featurettes: the 38-minute behind-the-scenes "Chronicles of a Director," the 26-minute "The Children's Magical Journey," a four-minute Lewis bio ("From One Man's Mind"), 55 minutes of interviews with assorted crew members (collected under the heading "Cinematic Storytellers"), another hour's worth of "Creating Creatures" mini-featurettes, and the 11-minute "Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River." Head to the "Creatures, Lands and Legends" area of the disc for comprehensive backgrounders on all of the movie's key creatures, an interactive Narnia map with four clickable destinations, and the "Legends in Time" timeline, which offers a chronological summary of the Pevensies' first sojourn in Narnia. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case with paperboard outer case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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