December 12, 2005 12:00 PM

THE WORLD OF NARNIA

Wicked witches and lion kings come to life in C.S. Lewis’s much-beloved The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Plus: King Kong, Jennifer Aniston and more will be brightening the season in new movies

HOLIDAY SPIRIT

There are rabid fan bases, and then there are the 85 million people who have snapped up the late author C.S. Lewis’s seven-volume The Chronicles of Narnia. The series’ first book, 1950’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, enraptured readers with a magical tale of four kids from World War II-ravaged London who discover an entrance, hidden in a wardrobe closet, to the fantastical world of Narnia. As producer Mark Johnson worked to put the novel onscreen, he says, “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘Don’t screw it up.’ ” In addition to appeasing Lewis fans, filmmakers are also reaching out to Christian groups, who have celebrated parallels between Jesus Christ and Narnia’s Aslan, a noble lion who sacrifices himself and is later resurrected. While filmmakers have been marketing the film directly to Christian leaders nationwide, the cast—like Lewis himself (who died in 1963)—insist that the story has a universal appeal. “It’s that classical and simple that you can project whatever you want onto it,” says Tilda Swinton, who plays the sinister White Witch. “There will be people who think the spiritual message of this film is that beavers can talk.”

DECK THE MULTIPLEX…

THE PRODUCERS

And they said Mel Brooks’s movie musical based on his Broadway musical based on his 1967 movie about a Broadway musical about Hitler would never work! Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell join dynamic duo Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane for this comedy extravaganza.

Perfect for: The in-laws who are still sore that you never got them tickets to see Broderick and Lane onstage. (In select cities Dec. 16)

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

What would the holidays be without a glossy movie version of a bestseller? This year Hollywood serves up Arthur Golden’s ’97 novel about a famous geisha (Ziyi Zhang) who yearns for tender businessman Ken Watanabe.

Perfect for: Incurable romantics—and the millions who couldn’t put down the novel. (In select cities Dec. 9)

FUN WITH DICK & JANE

Who says crime doesn’t pay? When his company implodes in an Enron-level disaster, Jim Carrey and wife Téa Leoni decide there’s only one way to maintain their suburban affluence: pull a Bonnie and Clyde.

Perfect for: The dad who dreams of sticking it to the Man. (Dec. 21)

KING KONG

Hairy Christmas! That big ol’ skyscraper-climbing gorilla is back, courtesy of director Peter Jackson, who remakes the ’33 classic. Naomi Watts follows Fay Wray and Jessica Lange as the blonde beauty who makes the supersized simian swoon.

Perfect for: Special-effects-crazy kids of all ages. (Dec. 14)

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2

Hollywood rule #724: All sequels have to be bigger than the original movie. But how do you top the ’03 comedy that starred Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as parents of 12? Square them off against Eugene Levy and Carmen Electra, who boast their own enormous brood.

Perfect for: The harried mom looking to laugh at other parents’ problems. (Dec. 21)

THE NEW WORLD

Looking for a non-Disneyfied take on the Pocahontas legend? Check out this cartoon-free version of the 1607 Jamestown settlement, which brought together Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and the famous Native American (Q’Orianka Kilcher, who just happens to be Jewel’s cousin).

Perfect for: Your uncle the history buff. (In select cities Dec. 25)

THE FAMILY STONE

Uptight Sarah Jessica Parker stresses over visiting boyfriend Dermot Mulroney’s family at Christmas. But his mom, Diane Keaton, and siblings Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams aren’t sure they approve—especially when her sister Claire Danes pops up.

Perfect for: Anyone who has weathered a dysfunctional family Yule—and can laugh about it. (Dec. 16)

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