A Less Than Fantastic Voyage: Devoid of Tension, Narnia Is a Much Duller Place the Second Time Around

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG)

dir: Andrew Adamson

Roughly three years pass in Narnia for every day of human time, which makes it scarcely worth the trouble waiting for a cheque to clear over there. It is now two and a half years since the release of The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but for anyone residing in CS Lewis's fantastical land, that translates as more than 2,700 years, which is an awfully long time to wait for a sequel, particularly one as unremarkable as Prince Caspian.

The Pevensie children--Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley)--rarely vent their feelings of adolescent turmoil with anything more than a haughty frown (the Famous Five look like joyriding glue fiends next to this lot), but even they can't hide their disappointment at what has befallen Narnia since their last visit. Honestly, you leave a magical land for a few thousand years and it all goes to pot. "You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember," warns the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), but I'd say the trend has been largely towards the conventional.

Electricity still hasn't been invented, and news of the wonders of waxing has yet to reach the woolly-legged centaurs. There is now an excess of talking animals, including a badger who speaks in Ken Stott's grumpypants growl, and a dandyish, cutlass-wielding mouse (Eddie Izzard). The Pevensies are summoned back to overthrow a pointy-bearded tyrant, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), who has tried to murder his stepson, the rightful heir, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), possibly for the crime of having an unconvincing Spanish lisp.

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What is clear from the prologue, in which Prince Caspian emerges from the jaws of death with his flawless side-parting intact, is that the real clash will be between him and the incumbent heart-throb, Peter, who until now has had pinup rights for the Narnia series in the bag. In a Freudian moment that even pre-schoolers will grasp, the lads cross blades before they've been introduced. Once this macho hostility subsides they're still trying to out-pout each other at every opportunity. There's so little subtext or shading in the film that it is actually a relief to have this hormonal jousting to spice things up. Caspian plays the trump card by making goo-goo eyes at Susan -and everybody knows you can't do much more to annoy a chap than date his sister. …