-This review pertains to the original DVD release, not the remastered edition-
In 1988, the BBC produced the first of four films based upon The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. The films are very faithful to the classic stories and feature much of the dialogue originally spoken in the books. Despite the series' low budget, it has become a family favorite and will provide hours of nostalgia for those who saw the films during their original airing.
During the bombing of London in World War II, the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent to live with Professor Kirke in the English countryside. One rainy day the children decide to explore Professor Kirke's large old house and it is during this exploration that Lucy, the youngest stumbles upon an antique wardrobe. She climbs into the wardrobe only to find that it is a doorway to a magical land called Narnia. There Lucy meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus, who invites her to his home for tea. Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy of Narnia's different creatures, and of an evil spell cast over the land; a spell that makes it always winter, but never Christmas. Mr. Tumnus lulls Lucy to sleep with his flute and when she awakens hours later, he confesses that he was under oath of the White Witch. The White Witch, (also known as Her Imperial Highness, Jadis, Queen of Narnia) has ordered that any human child found in Narnia should be apprehended and sent to her castle. But Mr. Tumnus, too fond of Lucy, spares her and helps her to escape Narnia. When Lucy returns to her own world, she finds that no time whatsoever has passed and because of this her brothers and her sister disbelieve her fantastic story. However that changes when she returns to Narnia and unbeknownst to her, she is followed by her brother Edmund. While Lucy is visiting Mr. Tumnus, Edmund has an encounter with the White Witch, who enchants him with magically conjured Turkish Delight. After Lucy and Edmund return to their own world, Lucy is eager to tell Peter and Susan that Edmund has now been to Narnia as well. But Edmund lies about the whole thing, claiming that he was just playing along and that it was all just a game. Lucy, heartbroken, goes off to her room to sulk. Fearing that Lucy may be disturbed, Peter and Susan consult Professor Kirke. To their great surprise the professor believes Lucy's story to be true and complains that children ought to be taught logic in school. After being reprimanded by the housekeeper, Mrs. MacReady, the four children try to find a place to hide. Ultimately, they find themselves in the room with the wardrobe and are forced to hide in it, but when they are transported to Narnia, Lucy insists that they visit Mr. Tumnus. They come to find that his home has been broken into and a note was left behind. The note declares that Mr. Tumnus was taken prisoner by the White Witch. As they debate what action to take, the children come across a talking beaver, who offers them shelter at his dam. The beaver and his wife tell the four children of an ancient prophecy that states that four human children will become the rightful rulers of Narnia and overthrow the White Witch. During their short stay with the beavers, Edmund wanders off and informs the White Witch of the other children's presence in Narnia. She sets off in her sleigh to capture them. Meanwhile the beavers prepare the other three children for a journey to the Stone Table, where they are to meet Aslan, the messianic Lion King of Narnia. After a dangerous trek, the children meet Aslan face to face and he helps to rescue Edmund from the clutches of the witch... but at a high price. On the eve before the great battle against the White Witch's army, Aslan disappears leaving Peter, Edmund, and the Narnians to defeat the witch's vile forces? Can good triumph over evil? Will the children live long enough to see their own world again?
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe features a charming ensemble cast (mostly of unknowns) including Richard Dempsey as Peter, Sophie Cook as Susan, Jonathan R. Scott as Edmund, Sophie Wilcox as Lucy, Jeffrey Perry as Mr. Tumnus, Kerry Shale as Mr. Beaver, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Beaver, Barbara Kellerman as The White Witch, Michael Aldridge as Professor Kirke, and Ronald Pickup as the voice of Aslan. Of the cast, Michael Aldridge and Jeffrey Perry are the most believable, while Sophie Wilcox's incessant whining and Barbara Kellerman's over-the-top line readings may annoy some viewers.
But all in all, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a delightful film.
The DVD includes an excerpt from the British television program The Bookworm, a still gallery, an animated trivia challenge, and a recipe for Turkish Delight.
All three Narnia DVDs containing the four films can be found together in a moneysaving box set, which includes beautiful artwork on the packaging. Also available is a newly remastered box set.