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Back to Narnia, Where Bland Prince Caspian Broods

For the Pevensie kids, it's been just a year since they popped into that wardrobe and down the rabbit hole or whatever. But in Narnia, some 1,300 years have passed, and the critters and dwarfs of the forest need their services again. So does Prince Caspian, who's in danger of being killed by an uncle who wants ... oh, never mind.

Suffice it to say that C.S. Lewis' epic riff on Christian mythology, replete with centaurs, minotaurs, fauns, witches and all manner of medieval costuming, continues to offer employment to Hollywood's special-effects wizards; that director Andrew Adamson has gotten a trifle more creative in staging live-action battles; and that the story's a tad darker and less fairytale-ish this time.

The title character — an adolescent in the book, played by 26-year-old Ben Barnes with an on-again-off-again Spanish accent and no discernible personality — will most likely be a disappointment to anyone not already swooning over his image on the movie poster.

A few physically small characters make bigger impressions: Peter Dinklage as an appealingly cranky dwarf named Trumpkin; Eddie Izzard voicing a mouse named Reepicheep. (The latter fills the Puss-in-Boots slot amusingly, reminding you that Adamson is also the guy behind Shrek's "cameras.") And let's not forget little Georgie Henley, whose Lucy Pevensie is still a reliable scene stealer — especially when she's on-screen with Aslan, the fluffy leonine Christ stand-in that only she seems inclined to turn to in times of crisis.

As fantastical film worlds go, Prince Caspian's at least keeps twee at bay. That said, if your tolerance for self-righteous crusading teenagers is itself less than fantastical, the 147-minute running time should give you pause.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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