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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1990 BBC adaptation of C.S. Lewis' book from the Chronicles of Narnia series does justice to the original story, but is slow moving and feels dated by the nearly 20-year-old special effects. The story of two children who escape from bullying schoolmates and set off on a noble quest presents rich and imaginative characters. Facing challenge after challenge -- some of their own making -- the children become the heroes of the story.
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What's the story?
THE SILVER CHAIR follows the heroic quest of Eustace (David Thwaites) and Jill (Camilla Power), bullied students at an English boarding school, as they escape to Narnia upon a mission assigned to them by the lion Aslan (voiced by Ronald Pickup). Reciting the four signs from Aslan like guideposts or a prayer, they seek to find missing Prince Rilian (Richard Henders), the son of Eustace's old friend Caspian (Geoffrey Russell).
Is it any good?
The Silver Chair was the fourth in a BBC-produced miniseries based on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia fantasy novels, and the story itself is compelling and fantastic. It's populated with talking owls, centaurs, rock-like UnderEarth men, and an evil serpent/queen. Kids will probably appreciate the bravery and cunning that Jill and Eustace, along with their aptly named guide Puddleglum (Tom Baker) show as they progress on their journey. And the relatively straightforward display of good vs. evil is easy for kids to follow, though adults familiar with Lewis' layered storytelling may find themselves pondering the meaning of the Lady of the Green Kirtle (Barbara Kellerman) and the Silver Chair as well.
However, at almost 180 minutes, there are scenes of the heroes trekking across barren landscapes that feel like they were shot in real-time. And although the miniseries won BAFTA awards for costume design, camera work, and lighting when it premiered in 1989/1990, the special effects seem very dated now, especially compared to 2005's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe . The set designs, however, still hold up, particularly the gloomy underworld into which the children tumble. On the whole the movie is worth seeing for kids between 7 and 11 who enjoy adventure and fantasy stories, but be prepared for the inevitable special effects comparisons.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the quest that Jill and Eustace undertake. Why did Eustace want to help his old friend Caspian? Some of the challenges the children faced were choosing whom to trust, keeping promises at great personal sacrifice, and staying alert to the world around them -- have you ever been faced with any of these challenges? Also, the Narnia books contain many allusions to Christianity that could generate discussion, such as who Aslan is meant to represent.
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