The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian & Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Reviews: Rings-lite, high comedy

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky

Two-and-a-half years after The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a lackluster C.S. Lewis adaptation that left me wanting, director Andrew Adamson delivers Prince Caspian, an immensely superior sequel that feels, tonally, like an altogether different film. Descriptions of Lord of the Rings-lite are wholly appropriate here, and the film features many of the strengths and weaknesses of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. While not exactly faithful to the source material, this adaptation holds more respect for the world created by Lewis than the previous film; non-fans are likely to be bored by some lengthy exposition, but Caspian has enough rousing action scenes to more than make up for it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Directed by Andrew Adamson. Starring William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Ben Barnes, Sergio Castellitto, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass, with the voices of Liam Neeson and Eddie Izzard. Written by Adamson & Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, from the book by C.S. Lewis.
IMDb link

It’s been a year since the Pevensie siblings – Peter (William Moseley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Susan (Anna Popplewell), and Lucy (Georgie Henley) – visited Narnia through the magical wardrobe and left as royalty. Yet hundreds of years have passed in Narnia, and the mythical land has now been taken over by the Telmarines and malevolent King Mraz (Sergio Castellitto), who has taken over the throne and threatened the life of rightful heir Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). As Caspian flees the kingdom and calls for help, his cries are heard by both the mythical creatures of Narnia and the four siblings. They return to the kingdom to stage a revolt, leading Caspian and the Narnians against the Telmarines and Mraz.

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This is, essentially, the same plot as the previous film. But it’s executed more effectively, and heads into much darker territory. The length – two-and-a-half hours – is occasionally a drawback, but Caspian feels like more of a traditional epic than Lion. There are more scenes of dialogue than I might like here, and again, an over-reliance on some sketchy CGI. But the action scenes, including a tremendous final battle right out of Jackson’s Rings, highlighted by a one-on-one fight between Peter and Mraz, are truly exciting.

Barnes is a little too bland in the title role; he’s not bad, but consistently upstaged by the four siblings, who aren’t exactly scene-stealers themselves. Supporting cast is a lot of fun, though, including Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin and Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep, a talkative little fencing mouse. Castellitto makes for an effectively menacing villain; Liam Neeson and Tilda Swinton make brief but welcome returns as the Christ-like lion Aslan and the White Witch.

Note: most cinemas are only screening a Czech-dubbed print of Prince Caspian. You can catch an English-language print (with Czech subtitles) at Palace Cinemas Slovanský dům.


Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd. Written by Jason Segal.
IMDb link

An uproariously funny comedy from start to finish, Nicholas Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall hits every note right – except for one unfortunately crucial one – and provides plenty of laughs along the way. Producer Judd Apatow and his immensely talented stable have set a new standard for contemporary comedies.

Musician Peter Bretter (Jason Segal, who also scripted) gets dumped by his girlfriend Sarah Marshall, a hot young actress currently starring alongside Billy Baldwin in TV’s Crime Scene, a show which Peter also scores. Unable to turn around without seeing images of his ex, and unable to get over her, Peter decides to take a trip to Hawaii. Unbeknownst to him, Ms. Marshall also happens to be in town, staying at the same resort with her new boyfriend, pop star Aldous Snow (a preposterously funny Russell Brand, who steals the show). Yet he attempts to forget Sarah, despite consistently turning up within ten meters of her, with the help of sweet young receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis) and a colorful supporting cast including waiter Jonah Hill and surf instructor Paul Rudd.

Segel is wonderful; decidedly not a mainstream star, nor an everyman, he’s written himself his own unique, believable character full of realistic flaws and likable attributes. For the most part, the film is also believable, and refreshingly good-natured. And it’s also hilarious.

But I’d rate this even higher if it weren’t for the climactic scene between Peter and Sarah, which feels both unnecessarily mean-spirited (it’s a sophomoric revenge fantasy) and overtly contrived to fit a standard rom-com plot cliché; in fact, it’s the only scene in the movie that feels like it came directly from the pen of a writer. While I don’t want to penalize the film as a whole for a single wrong note, this one left a particularly unpleasant taste in my mouth, which was only partially washed away by the Dracula puppet musical.

Still, this is one of the funniest movies in ages, right up there with Superbad, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year Old Virgin. All hail Apatow, producer of the aforementioned (and director of Virgin) and creator of the criminally underrated and prematurely cancelled Freaks and Geeks, who has finally found success in Hollywood as the new King of Comedy.

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