I’m a sucker for fiction, I admit it. My literary preference isn’t entirely the result of reading (and re-reading) C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but that little book had a big impact on me as a child. So I was delighted, and just a bit apprehensive, when I learned that Walt Disney Studios and Walden Media are partnering to turn the beloved story into a feature-length film.
The project’s official website, www.narnia.com, is amazingly scant on details, but what we know so far bodes well:
- The film is scheduled for release at Christmastime of this year (good timing, eh?)
- The film will be live action, not animated. As you might expect, many of the non-human characters (including Aslan) will be computer generated.
- Filming is occurring in lovely New Zealand, among other locations. Incredibly lush Narnian scenery is all but guaranteed.
- Highly acclaimed director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) is heading up the project. Award-winning writer Ann Peacock adapted Lewis’s book for the big screen.
Here are some other facts (or rumors) circulating on the Internet:
- The film’s budget is $100 million.
- About half the film will be computer-enhanced.
- The film will expand on the book’s wartime setting and will spend significantly more time on the fantasy animal battle scene than Lewis does in the book.
That last item makes me just a bit edgy. (When you’ve read a book 10 times, you resent it when someone fools around with the plot.) Lewis, while he certainly doesn’t shy away from describing a battle, focuses more on valiant deeds than on gory details. My 7-year-old son loved the book and was at the perfect age for it to assist in his spiritual formation—but if the film includes extended or intense battle scenes it might incur a rating that will prevent lots of Lewis’s young fans from seeing it.
The folks at Disney and Walden definitely have it in them to make The Chronicles of Narnia one of the most beloved family films of all times. Let’s hope they rise to the challenge by remaining true to the story as a powerful but kid-friendly allegory of the gospel message.
I, for one, wish them Godspeed!
Fiction for Adults
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini reviewed by Kristy Quist
(Riverhead Books) Afghanistan is not well known to those of us who get our history mainly through novels. The Kite Runner takes readers on a historical tour of Afghan history, including the last monarchy, communism, and the Taliban. It also gives glimpses of the beauty once found in the now-troubled country. The book is steeped in themes of guilt, atonement, and the need for forgiveness from a Muslim perspective. Young Amir and Hassan grow up close as brothers, but violence and ethnic divisions separate them. Amir moves to America, still struggling with the guilt of what Hassan has suffered on his behalf. As Amir approaches middle age, his father’s friend summons him back to Afghanistan with a special request. The novel is both hard to read and hard to put down. There are accounts of violence that are horrifying but never glamorized. Instead Hosseini reveals the long-lasting consequences of violent acts—consequences that continue to shape the history of Amir’s homeland.
Blueberries for the Queen
by John and Katherine Paterson illustrated by Susan Jeffers reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
(HarperCollins) In 1942 young William learns that Queen Wilhelmina—the Dutch monarch who fled her country after the Nazi invasion—has moved to an estate near his home in Lee, Massachusetts. William decides to do “peace work” by bringing blueberries to the queen. Susan Jeffers’s magnificent illustrations capture the contrast between William’s vivid imagination—replete with an unapproachable queen, a castle, a steed, and a knight—and the reality of a grandmotherly monarch who welcomes a shy boy in overalls. Based on author John Paterson’s encounter with Queen Wilhelmina, this book gives a joyful glimpse into a grievous historical period.
Nonfiction for Adults
A Generous Orthodoxy
by Brian McLaren reviewed by Robert N. Hosack
(Zondervan) “Emerging church” guru Brian McLaren makes a creative, if at times contrived, case for a rethinking of Christian orthodoxy. His method is intentionally “provocative, mischievous, and unclear.” All are welcome at his church potluck. As he succinctly summarizes the many divergent streams that can inform the church, McLaren identifies a “generous orthodoxy” with a consistent practice of humility, charity, courage, and diligence. While deeply appreciative of the Reformed faith, he warns of a pending identity crisis, where some remain entrenched in modernity while others, of more robust faith, help to lead the way by “always reforming” in an emerging culture.
reviewed by Ron VandenBurg
(Universal) My family and I watched director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s family film about the interaction of tigers and people in French Indo-China. The film explores the animals’ many facets: tigers as decoration, as pets and possessions, tigers for hunting and for circus entertainment. In the end, Annaud’s characters kneel to ask forgiveness from creation for humans’ misguided attempts to control creation. The DVD includes a documentary on the plight of wild tigers that’s well worth watching.
Young Adult Pick
The Underground Reporters
by Kathy Kacer reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
(Second Story Press) Before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, children of different religious backgrounds played together. But when the Nazis clamped down on the Jews, everything changed. In this fascinating adaptation of a true story, 15-year-old Jew Ruda Stadler protests Nazi injustices by starting a clandestine newspaper and inviting Jewish children to contribute to it. The newspaper, which becomes increasingly serious in content as Nazi oppression escalates, develops into “an important lifeline” for Jewish youths and adults alike.
Now the Day Is Over
by the Innocence Mission reviewed by Philip Christman
(Badman) Though an album of lullabies isn’t the first thing I’d expect from most of my favorite bands, it makes perfect sense coming from the Innocence Mission. Karen and Don Peris have spent 20 years writing and performing songs so full-heartedly sincere that they ought (if the universe were strictly logical) to veer into sentimentality. But they don’t. The emotional honesty that separates this band from nearly everyone else makes most of these songs worthwhile (and a portion of the proceeds go to needy children).
reviewed by Lloyd Rang
I thought I had seen everything on the Internet—until my friend sent me a talking picture of my 10-month-old son. Using software she found at www.saymail.sympatico.ca/service/Start, my friend made an electronic picture of my son speak, blink, and nod. Just upload a photo and follow the simple instructions to make any picture come alive. It’s fun—and completely free.