Now that is how I like my epics. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe absolutely kicks epic fantasy butt. This is not a movie based on the book, this is the book brought into rich, textured, magical life. It sucks you in slowly, letting you gradually suspend your disbelief until the appearance of a pair of talking beavers is not a surprise so much as an expectation.
The visuals are, of course, the biggest treat. The wintry waterfall, the house of Tumnus, the lamp post in the middle of nowhere, the wonderfully choreographed battle are all brilliantly imagined and spectacularly executed.
And while the visuals are amazing, the movie by no means relies on them. The four child actors put in generally credible performances (the rather delectable William Moseley being one to look out for in future. He's 18, so it's okay to fancy him, but he was born in 1987, so it somehow still seems wrong...). But the show is well and truly stolen by the Winter Queen. Tilda Swinton kicks great big, heaped buckets of ass as the biggest bad-ass to grace the screen since the Terminator, while at the same time delivering a very subtle emotional performance.
As for the bad, well, there is some. There's no escaping the Disney influence: there's a giant battle featuring no blood, no on-screen death, and three or four unnecessarily heavy-handed "it's all about family" moments that jar with the otherwise believable dialogue of the rest of the screenplay.
There's a fair bit of humour, a big chunk of which is unintentional: maybe the kids don't get it, but really, you can't introduce a talking beaver without a lot of immature giggling from the audience, and a few of the final scenes, without the background explanation provided by the book, are an amusingly rapid transition.
If you've never read the books, this movie will be great. If you, like me, spent your childhood endlessly re-reading the Chronicles, then it is an absolute joy to watch.