GENRE: Family fantasy
THE PITCH: Thirteen hundred years after they ruled Narnia, the Pevensie siblings (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley and Anna Popplewell) return to the magical realm to help rightful Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) overthrow a tyrant (Sergio Castellitto) bent on exterminating the land's mystical beings.
MONEY SHOTS: Reminiscent of Harry Potter, a London subway transports the Pevensies to the shores of Narnia. The young royals sneak into the enemy castle on the backs of flying griffins. A flashy sword fight between Peter and the evil king. The final battle features huge armies and massive catapults, although the huge, supernatural rescuers turn out to be pretty lame.
FUNNIEST LINE: "I'm King Peter, the Magnificent," Peter says. "You could've left off that last bit," says his brother Edmund. Their fraternal rivalry provides the film's most engaging scenes.
WORST LINE: "Beyond these woods, I'm a prince!" announces Caspian, whose lack of charisma somehow wins over the loyalty of the hostile Narnians.
BODY COUNT: Dozens and dozens. The stabbings and arrow-shots prove bloodless, but since the bad guys are all humans, Caspian feels much more violent than the previous film. Kids may be upset when the talking badger gets shot with a crossbow and two other creatures are crushed under falling objects.
CAMEOS: Liam Neeson reprises the vocal role of the magical lion Aslan, who plays a smaller part in this one (and, frankly, is kind of a jerk about it). Eddie Izzard voices the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep, a role that'll remind you of Puss in Boots from the Shrek movies (also directed by Andrew Adamson). Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton has a brief reappearance as the White Witch and makes the other villains look even more boring by comparison.
SOUNDTRACK FARE: In the final scene, Regina Spektor's "The Call" somehow distills the most annoying aspects of self-absorbed emo warbling and gauzy new age composition.
POLITICALLY INCORRECT? Yes. The film lumps the dwarf characters (played by Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis) as "Narnians," along with the centaurs, talking mice, etc. No, dwarfs are "real" human beings — must we have this conversation? Also, why do all the bad guys appear to be bearded, thickly accented Italian character actors? It's like a 1960s Hercules movie.
BETTER THAN THE PREVIOUS ONE?: No. However uneven, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe featured a greater sense of wonder, better special effects and strong supporting performances from the likes of James McAvoy. Here, Dinklage steals his every scene, but can't carry the film alone.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Prince Caspian builds to some lavish sword-and-sorcery eye candy in its second half, but takes a long, joyless slog to get there. The film sets up another sequel, but what you really want to know is, "How long until Guillermo del Toro makes The Hobbit?"
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 2 stars Directed by Andrew Adamson. Stars Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes. Rated PG. Opens Fri., May 16. At area theaters.
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