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This week:
The Chronicles of Narnia

Filthy says:
"Bahh. Just buy yhe books."

Christmas is in the air? Can you feel it? Can you taste it? Here in Arvada we usually smell it first. A whiff of crispness from powdery snow on the pines, the synthetic, waxy smoke of Duraflame logs, and the vomit in the gutter by the Arvada Tavern, redolent with nutmeg and sausage. As part of its "Lagniappe" celebration, Olde Town Arvada offers free carriage rides on weekend nights, but not to take drunks home, apparently. No, just to take kiddies in circles, ending up right where they started. Man, isn't that life? The free shit is for the go-nowheres while those of us with a destination in mind have to bundle up and slog through the slush, or sleep under the cardboard boxes behind the Army Navy Surplus.

Santa has been here every weekend, holding court in a beached sleigh on the lawn of an abandoned house in Olde Town, and making children cry. Actually, this weekend they moved him into one of the cruddy little gift shops because--I guess--they were afraid it was too cold and snowy for Santa. What the fuck? The guy's from the North Pole.

I didn't visit him before today. This morning, I headed to the Tavern because the Mrs. was having a big-ass craft party at the house. These happen every few years when the stars align and Safeway has a buy-one-get-one sale on elbow macaroni the same week that Hobby Lobby offers half off glitter paints. Her coworkers from Hancock Fabrics descend on the house like crows on a dead squirrel and don't leave until nightfall. God only knows how much paint and pasta ends up in their bellies and how much on their Christmas trees.

There's a bragging right that goes to the first through the Tavern's doors on a Saturday morning. You can declare you got more drunk before nine a.m. than most people do all day. I didn't earn that right this week. The Harelip beat me, already sitting at the corner chair, crunching on celery from her Bloody Mary when I arrived. "Hey, shit eyes," she barked as I took my seat.

As longtime readers know, the Harelip's not my favorite drinking buddy, but she's not my least favorite either. That would be me, followed closely by the teenagers behind the Conoco who make me cry every time I have a beer with them. They're so damn catty. Anyway, this morning it only took ten minutes before the Harelip and I were arguing, screaming at each other across the bar about whether Neil Diamond's We're Coming to America is a piece of shit song or a patriotic masterpiece. It didn't come up on the jukebox or anything, but it's the continuation of an argument that started in 1998. I said it's shit and she yelled masterpiece with enough force to send her saliva fifteen feet. Finally, she spat the first smart thing she'd said all morning, "Let's ask Santa, he knows everything."

If anyone is an impartial arbiter, it's Santa Claus. Not only does he sort of look like Judge Wapner with a beard, but he's obligated by law to be fair to everyone, even poor kids. We agreed that we'd abide by Santa's decision. I left my Bud Lite on the bar and we walked down Grandview to find him. The fat old man had just set up in the gift shop, and was rubbing his crusty eyes as the shop owner led the first of a handful of kids up to sit on his lap. There were the kids who got up early to see Mr. Claus. you know, the annoying kind who ask for world peace and science kits. The Harelip wanted to just push right past them, but I said no, Christmas is for the children, even the dorky ones. So, we waited in line, and the Harelip made small talk, giving them a show and tell tour of her tattoos and scars. While we waited, more children arrived got in line behind us.

When we our turn came, the Harelip immediately hopped onto Santa's leg. That pissed me off. How is he supposed to be impartial when she's up there cooing and babying up to him? I climbed onto his other leg to balance the scales of justice. I didn't grab at his nuts like she did, but I let him know how much I admired his work, even during the years he left me coal, because I knew deep in my heart, and my father reminded me, that was what I deserved.

While Santa freed his crotch from the Harelip's grabby hands I tried to pose the question as impartially as I could. "Is that crap-ass song We're Coming to America shitty or a patriotic masterpiece?" Santa stammered and paused. I asked again and the Harelip licked his beard. "It's real," she said. He asked us to get off his lap. The Harelip asked him if Rudolph had shit in cornflakes. Somewhere in line, a kid started to cry. I repeated the question and Santa responded by trying to stand, dumping both the Harelip and me onto the floor.

I felt awful, not so much because we made a scene and were told by the store owner to never come back. Boo hoo, I'll have to go somewhere else for all my scented candle needs. I felt bad because Santa never answered the question, and I thought he was better than that. If Santa can't take my side, who can I trust to do it? I guess I can still write him a letter.

The reason I bring up Santa is because he makes a cameo appearance in the dull-as-prison-flatware Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Right smack dab in the middle, jolly Old Saint Nick pops up as a Deus Ex Machina to hand out some gifts that double as badly needed tools later in the story. I don't remember the C.S. Lewis novel being so stupidly obvious, but I do remember it having Santa.

His presence is the most powerful reminder that The Chronicles of Narnia are stories for children about minotaurs, talking animals, wicked witches and folklore. It's fantastical shit, fun for kids, but hardly suitable for the plumped-up epic-striving entombment that it gets in this movie. It's pretty damn hard to take seriously any movie that has him making a cameo and wants you to go "ooooo." But the makers here want you to. They don't want to entertain you nearly as much as they want you to think you're seeing something epic. It tries so hard to be The Lord of the Rings that they even film it in the same New Zealand wilds and weigh it down with just as many sweeping panoramic shots.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four annoying kids are sent away from London during the German bombings of World War II. They are sent to live with a professor in his massive, stodgy country estate. Bored and restless, they play hide and seek and one of them hides in a giant antique wardrobe filled with fur coats. She pushes to the back which opens a door to another world, Narnia. Her siblings follow shortly after her.

Narnia is a land of fantasy creatures borrowed from many other sources, but there are no humans. It has been under the control of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) for 100 years, and for that long it has been winter. She is an evil despot who likes to turn her enemies to stone and impose fascistic rule.

Once in this new world, the four orphans are quickly targeted by Swinton because a "prophecy" declares that the four humans will restore freedom to the land with the help of a wise and Christlike lion named Aslan. Just as Joseph Campbell would want it, the kids are reluctant and would rather go home than try to save innocent creatures in a world that can't evenbe sure is real. But when one of them is captured by Swinton, they are encouraged by a couple of talking beavers. They decide to stay and lead the good into battle and victory. The movie covers the first book in the Narnia series faithfully in a literal sense. The books are short and fun for a kid, loaded with adventure but light on character depth. The movie adaptation gets the weak character part, but it completely misses the fun. Instead, it embalms the story with a bombastic and sappy score and plodding pace. for a kid's adventure, the whole thing is as shamefully boring as my sister's worst stories about delousing cats.

Right from the start, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe declares its overambitious intent with some flashy WWII shots and a sentimental train departure scene. After that, the movie mostly crawls at the pace of a turd sliding down the back of a leg. It's not out of a reverence for the source material, though; it's because the movie wants us to be reverent. Apparently, we aren't supposed to have fun, we're supposed to be cowed by the spectacle. the spectacle of what? Santa? New Zealand in the winter? Talking beavers? What the fuck? We watch the characters marvel over how wonderful what they are seeing is. The movie couldn't just let us marvel, no, for fear we may not without some guidance. the reason is because this is the most uncreative fantasy films I have ever seen. Anytime imaginatin is needed to enhance what Lewis wrote, it drops the ball faster than Alfonso Soriano.

It continually fails as a story because it feels more like the cold, calculated construction of someone building a franchise series with big budgets. So, it takes even the silliest portions of the slim novel, like Santa, totally seriously. The dialog is sentimental claptrap. It is also nearly humorless, but the few occasions it makes an attempt are tired and trite. In fact, almost all the secondary characters are corny. The old professor the kids go to live with is doddering and "charming". A pair of squabbling beavers are like fourth generation Xerox of Married... with Children.

The only time the movie wakes up is in the final minutes when the forces of the White Witch battle the forces of good. The battle sequences aren't unique. in fact, they are ripped off from Lord of theRings, but they are at least action. And as long as people are fighting, it's easy to forget the hokey music and lousy dialog.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe also stinks in some strange technical ways. Some of the talking animals look only a couple of grades of animation better than Nickelodeon. Several of the green-screen background shots looks as fake and cheesy as driving scenes in old Hitchcock movies.

It's a shame, really, when adults suck all the life out of a kid's story. They pretend to revere it, but what they really do is worship the profit potential at the expense of the story and the kids. Thismovie is like a grown up who never opens the action figures he loved as a kid. Yeah, they're worth a lot now, but you sure miss out on all the fun that way. Two Fingers for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

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Jeffrey Lyons of Superlatives Galore

The Chronicles of Narnia is "Astonishing. Brilliant special effects, thrilling adventure, and some of the best, most amazing battle sequences you will ever see!"

In Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, "Lady Olivie desreves an Oscar nomination!"

Mrs. Henderson Presents is "a treasure! A gem! Absolutely enchanting! One of the year's most delightful movies!"

Filthy's Reading
Graham Greene- Stamboul Train

Listening to
Supersuckers - Devil's Food


The Princess Bride