As a little godless baby, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia. I read each book over and over (except for The Last Battle—depressing, boring, chimpy), because I was enchanted by C. S. Lewis's eerie, stately prose; talking beavers; interdimensional rings; embattled princes; and especially sea voyages into the unknown. The heavy-handed Christian allegory didn't bother me a bit. How could I even know it was there? What did I know about resurrection and sin and redemption and sons and fathers and the one true king? That shit was as magical and mysterious as a talking warrior beaver fighting a dwarf. If C. S. Lewis was aiming for indoctrination, he failed spectacularly. All I learned from Narnia is that the Bible is just another fairy tale.

In the first two recent Narnia adaptations, the filmmakers kept the Christian stuff cautiously under wraps. Yeah, Aslan was martyred and came back to life or whatever, but he's a MAGIC LION. What's the point of being a magic lion with sorcery breath if you can't regenerate to lead your Minotaurs into battle? But with the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader, they seem to be making up for lost time.

The film opens in Cambridge. Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are cooped up with their miserable aunt and uncle, the Scrubbs. Their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter's blustery little performance makes the film) is a whining, covetous, nonbelieving blowhard who teases them about Aslan when he's not waxing scientific about his bug collection. Fortunately for his eternal soul, Eustace gets the science drilled right out of him when the three fall through a magic painting and find themselves bobbing in the Narnian seas.

Turns out, they "have to" help King Caspian collect seven magic swords from seven lost lords (wait, why again?) and deliver them to Aslan's all-you-can-eat fruit buffet at the end of the world. This is the only way to defeat an evil green mist that is creeping around Narnia, and which may or may not have something to do with Tilda Swinton (a movie needs a villain, after all). Along the way, Lucy decides she's super ugly and won't stop crying, Edmund goes BONKERS FOR GOLD, the talking mouse never shuts up, and every 12 seconds someone says something like "To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourselves."

Which brings us to the Jesus stuff. The film is loaded with overt lessons about faith and prayer ("You just have to have faith about these things—Aslan will help us"), and Eustace's eventual conversion is straight out of a Chick tract. In the film's final moments, the kids weep on the shores of Aslan's country and ask if they will ever see their magic lion savior again. "In your world, I have another name. You must learn to know me by it." Ohhh right, your other name. What was it again? Dumbledore? Bilbo Baggins? Obama? I just can't keep this fairy-tale shit straight. recommended