It’s easy to predict what the response will be to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Walt Disney Company’s latest holiday blockbuster: smiling faces on children of all ages. Rather than recasting C. S. Lewis’ compelling children’s tale along the lines of the Gospel according to Hollywood, producers reserved their creative talent for visually representing the story that Lewis actually wrote.
Lion will effectively demonstrate that, where free enterprise is allowed to flourish, the most profitable filmmaking strategies give people what they want. With 50 million Evangelicals in the United States, the dearth of films representing conservative Christian values in a good light has been unsettling. Now, that is changing. An insightful column in the Economist noted that Hollywood’s delayed response was “thanks to a combination of institutional lethargy and cultural blinkers. But Disney’s support for C.S. Lewis’s children’s classic reflects a realization that the industry needs to learn how to tap into what insiders call ‘Passion’ dollars.”
After viewing Lion, I can say with certainty that Disney has learned to do just that. Significant deviations from the spirit of the story are absent, while many of the tiniest details are included. For example, two—count them: one, two—mothballs drop out of the wardrobe when Lucy opens the door. Also, when the camera quickly pans around Mr. Tumnus’s cave you can catch the titles on his bookshelf, such as Is Man a Myth?
Of course, there are those that will be unhappy with the film. Among them will be avowed atheist Philip Pullman, author of the critically acclaimed children’s series His Dark Materials. Pullman leveled serious charges against The Chronicles and in one instance called the series “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I have ever read.” Some of his other remarks concerning the books are equally or more vituperous. Most of his deep-seated, arbitrary vitriol reminds one of another Lewis character, Wormwood’s Uncle Screwtape, or, in keeping with the season, Seuss’s Grinch who stole Christmas.
This holiday season it appears that Hollywood will be leaving the Grinch out in the cold.