PRINCE CASPIAN is lots of fun even if you're not a fan of C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. (In fact, it may be better not to be one in this case, as purists are likely to balk at some departures from the text.) Caspian doesn't offer as much whimsy as the first installment, dealing instead with darker matters -- notably that of Caspian's fight to keep his throne, which is wrenched from him by his scheming, power-mad uncle. The Narnians, under siege by the Telmarines, are rougher around the edges this time, too; they're more cynical and tired of persecution. To win their freedom, they must fight -- often, and sometimes to their death.
Still, thanks to well-paced moments of levity -- many of them instigated by swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced impeccably by Eddie Izzard) -- the long journey (the film clocks in at over two hours) doesn't lag too much. (Some jokes do jar, taking you out of the time period; the kids, for instance, refer to one of the dwarves as "DLF," for "dear little friend," which, although it's straight from the book, somehow sounds a little text message-y.) Director Andrew Adamson keeps the fight scenes taut and swift, though one less skirmish or two could have gone a long way toward preventing battle fatigue. But fine work from the cast (particularly Henley) helps make up for this, as does the breathtaking scenery. You'll be ready to book your own Narnia adventure by the time the credits roll.