of the Glum
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
by Andrew Adamson
(voice by Liam Neeson), the mystically beneficent lion messiah
of Narnia, is seemingly missing, as usual. Prince Caspian
(Ben Barnes) doesn’t believe in Aslan anyway, and like most
of his country folk in the land of Telmarine, he assumes that
the talking animals, dwarves, centaurs, and other unusual
peoples of Narnia are either extinct or make-believe. But
in his hour of need—Caspian’s wicked uncle, King Miraz (Sergio
Castellitto) is scheming to remove him from the line of succession—Caspian
is rescued, in a roundabout way that crosses several centuries,
by a magic horn. The horn conjures the fabled kings and queens
of Narnia . . . as they are waiting for a train to take them
to boarding school. Back in England, only a year has passed.
The Pevensie children (William Moseley as Peter, Anna Popplewell
as Susan, Skandar Keynes as Edmond, and Georgie Henley as
Lucy) have no idea that they are needed in Narnia until they
find themselves in their kingdom, now a ruined, somber, and
blue-hued place where Lucy is almost mauled by a decidedly
noncommunicative bear. “I finally got used to being in England,”
sighs Peter, formerly High King Peter the Magnificent.
And so begins the workmanlike second installment of the onscreen
adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.
Again directed by Andrew Adamson, Prince Caspian sprawls
across a larger canvass than The Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe. After a brief readjustment to the time-and-reality
jump, the royal Pevensies resume their roles as leaders of
an uprising, this time against the military might of King
Miraz. Yet despite its complexities and the fantastical opportunities
it allows for, Caspian’s Shakespearean plot seems dour and
ponderous compared to the black-magic machinations of the
White Witch (and Tilda Swinton’s alluring ferocity) in the
Director Adamson (Shrek) is still more adept with narrative
and special effects—Caspian’s set design is spectacular—than
characters or actors, and the Pevensies are even more lacking
in enchanting bravura (and snappy dialogue) than before, Lucy
excepted. But now she’s a young teenager rather than the saucer-eyed
moppet whose sense of wonderment was integral to first film’s
charm, and her unshakable belief that Aslan is alive and aiding
them somewhere doesn’t add anything (other than a concession
to Lewis’ faith-based take on chivalric adventure) to Prince
Caspian’s alliance with Narnia. And it’s dashing Caspian,
whose doubts are easily turned to optimism, who is the more
compelling “high king” of this installment (though his ardor
for staid Susan, who would be much more convincing rallying
the rear guard in a pair of sturdy Wellies than loosing arrows
like Arwen, is rather jarring).
Among the Narnian conscripts is a talking badger, a morose
but doughy dwarf (Peter Dinklage), and a herd of centaurs.
None of them is particularly endearing or comic, though there
is one scene-stealer, the valiant mouse voiced by Eddie Izzard.
In battle, this plumed Stuart Little gets medieval on enemy
guardsmen by pricking them in the face with his tiny sword.
Izzard’s ingenious mousketeer upstages even Aslan himself.
She Found Me
by Helen Hunt
Hunt’s forte as an actress has always been the depiction of
intelligent, self-deprecating, slightly prickly women. The
success of her pairing with Paul Reiser in the sitcom Mad
About You had more to do with the fact that their characters
were so similar (see above), than in the ideal of Hunt as
ingénue or love interest. The movies that Hunt has subsequently
appeared in milk that persona, obviously to great effect,
since they’ve earned her awards and award nominations.
Aside from the fact that she cowrote the screenplay and directed
the movie, with Then She Found Me, Hunt continues to
work her preferred routine. As the 39-year-old teacher April
Epner, she is, at movie’s outset, the picture of haggard brittleness.
“Damn, she got old!” was my initial reaction, until I accepted
the fact that April, married to manchild Ben (Matthew Broderick,
also working his stereotypical persona) and unable to fulfill
a fevered desire to get pregnant, looks the way anybody would
who has spent life waiting patiently for some sort of just
reward. Sadly, all April seems to get is a kick in the teeth.
First Ben tells her that he’s going home to mother. The next
day, her own adopted mom passes away. And then, she is contacted
by her birth mother Bernice (Bette Midler), a popular morning
TV talk show host who, in all her restless energy, easy poise
and razor’s-edge intelligence, seems as diametrically opposed
to April as possible. (The effect is felt all the more because
Midler and Hunt, in both physicality and approach, have absolutely
nothing in common.) As April ponders whether or not to make
a connection with Bernice, she also meanders in and out of
a flirtation with divorcé Frank (Colin Firth).
She Found Me, based on a 1990 novel by Elinor Lipman,
is a bittersweet, often penetrating study about the nature
of need and the fear of the emotional unknown. April’s adoptive
mother urges her to adopt (“In China, they’re throwing babies
in the trash!”), insisting that there is no difference between
a mother’s love for her adopted or her natural-born child.
April’s unwillingness to follow this course seems grounded
in an assurance that she can better control the outcome biologically
than in risking such an adoption. It’s this kind of fear that
sets her to repeatedly screwing up her life, notably by ping-ponging
between the commitment-phobe Ben and the reliable yet sexy
Frank, or to throwing Bernice out of her life whenever she
encounters a fib that the older woman told her. There is a
real sense of isolation that lingers about April, but it has
nothing to do with her adopted state—and it’s something that
takes her the entire movie to figure out.
For all its bittersweet nature, Then She Found Me is
surprisingly funny, especially as it details the way wounded
people deal with each other, especially new others.
Hunt’s April evolves slowly from her emotionally and biologically
barren origins to a slightly less-fragile being, able to accept
that hurt will happen. She demonstrates a steady hand in her
offscreen capacities, particularly in quiet moments, such
as when Bernice washes her hair or when she lays in bed with
Frank’s kids, that speak to something far deeper than simple
comedy. Firth, usually the dapper love interest, here gets
to look grungy and lost, and to say things like “Fuck you!
Fuck my children!” that are as cleansing for us as they are
for Frank. And Midler delivers a solid performance, always
carefully keeping it from becoming too funny, too Divine Miss
M, and managing to subtly convey a sense of loss and rediscovery.
Then She Found Me is the intelligent alternative to,
say, Baby Mama, which plays its female characters’
vast differences for lowbrow laughs, instead of mining those
differences for real truths about humanity.