In the run-up to the release of the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, everyone seems to have been eager to recall the moment when they first realized that C.S. Lewis’s novel wasn’t just a whimsical fantasy, but was in fact an especially heavyhanded Christian allegory. This seemingly universal experience for everyone who read the book took me by surprise; honestly, it had never occurred to me that you could approach it as anything else. I suspect that my perspective is a little blinkered, seeing as how a heavy enough diet of Sunday School will tend to develop in a child a heightened sensitivity towards things that threaten to illustrate Christ’s love for his children and His willingness to sacrifice himself for our sins. It says something about the Narnia books that I embraced them in spite of their unabashed preachiness, which is more than I can say for A Pilgrim’s Progress.

The disconnect between Narnia as a self-contained world and Narnia as an extension of the Christian world manifests itself in Disney’s experiment in dual promotion, selling the movie differently to secular and religious audiences. I don’t have any box office numbers handy, but they seem to be doing something right, since my parents, who track new movie releases so assiduously that they managed to be completely surprised when they saw a poster for a new remake of King Kong, were pretty eager to go see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The movie itself seems happy enough to let its Christian subtext remain subtextual, focusing mainly on standard kid-flick themes of looking out for family, learning to believe in yourself, not accepting candy from strange witches no matter how impressive their hair extensions are, etc., etc. As I watched, however, I was a bit surprised to realize that some of the parts of the book that have stuck most strongly with me over the years are some of its preachiest, and were sensibly excised from the movie for reasons of time, coherence, and the fact that most moviegoers don’t enjoy being preached at. Unfortunately, these preachy, dogmatic bits — long descriptions of how Aslan could be simultaneously terrifying and lovable, kind and cruel, stern and comforting — are a big part of what make Aslan more than just a Lion King, of what make him a compelling figure in his own right, as well as a useful lens through which a seven-year-old could understand Christ a little better (assuming the seven-year-old is into that sort of thing). It’s a little disappointing to see the movie spend half an hour explaining how billeting worked during the Blitz, when it could have spent that time developing its biggest character.

Or it could be that I’ve simply had all the sense of wonder drained out of me, and wouldn’t know a good children’s movie if it bit me in the ass. Hard to say.