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Saturday, November 23, 2002


On an unrelated note, I saw the new Harry Potter movie. Really good. Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it go!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ***1/2
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: J.K. Rowling (novel), Steven Kloves (screenplay)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grant, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, and Richard Branagh
Rated PG (makes sense to me)

I am torn. Fundamentally torn. As much as I want to be a Jedi, every time I enter Hogwarts I want to be a wizard. A Jedi can use the Force and wield a lightsaber, but Jedi don't get to play quidditch. Jedi, at least during the Old Republic, couldn't have girlfriends/boyfriends/breeding partners, but wizards can and do get married, both to other wizards and to muggles (non-wizards). I guess until I watch Attack of the Clones for the third time since buying it on DVD, I am going to say that I want to be a wizard.

I usually put my plot synopses here, so I'll do that now, too. Harry (Radcliffe) is to begin his 2nd year at Hogwarts, but various forces, natural and supernatural, are working against him. The natural forces are his aunt, uncle and cousin, who are absolutely dreadful. They are the types of people who don't get the Chocolate Factory. No redeeming qualities whatsoever, which is what makes them entertaining. The supernatural force is named Dobby. Dobby is a house elf. He knows of Harry's reputation, and wants to protect him. Dobby, however, is not very effective. After much struggle, Harry is on his way to Hogwarts, along with his friend Ron (Grant), and Ron's family, the Weasleys. The old rivalries appear, with Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), and his father Lucious (Jason Isaacs) being snobs, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) acting like a jerk, but an oddly noble one, and Groundskeeper Filch (David Bradley) being a crank. Oh, and it looks like Harry might be attempting to kill other students.

First of all, the movie is entertaining. It runs 2 hours and 45 minutes, but it never drags. All the kids in the audience were attentive the whole time. It's a bit darker than the first, but it's not TOO dark. The actors are getting older (and, in the case of Harris, dying after production. RIP, Richard.), but they aren't too old to play the parts. While I have a feeling that puberty is not going to be too kind to Rupert Grant, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson are going to grow up just fine. Kenneth Branagh as Professor Gilderoy Lockart, the Protection from Dark Arts teacher, is... well, if you want British smarm, the best way to get it is from a Shakespearian actor. One scene that stands out in my head is Lockhart standing in front of a portrait of himself painting a portrait of himself. Dude has an ego.

As far as the adaptation goes, once again, I'm going to have to call this Harry Potter and the Abridgement of the Chamer of Secrets. The movie is very good, but the book had all these little things that really made it worthwhile. Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright)'s crush on Harry, George and Fred Weasley, Harry's "adoptive" family, and much of the mystery was left out. Ginny was in the movie, but only peripherally. George and Fred are twins. They play pranks. The Dursleys are just rotten, rotten people, and entertaining to beat the band. And, the mystery of the book was just kind of left out. I never got a sense of "Well, perhaps it's... wait, no... It's gotta be..." in regards to who Slytherin's heir was.

The special effects are MUCH better in this one than the previous Potter outing. I imagine that ILM was all distracted by Attack of the Clones during the last film, but the FX really shine in this one. The quidditch match is marvelous, and Dobby, another CGI character, is fantastic. People have said that when we see Gollum in The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, Dobby is the character to beat. I'm inclined to agree.

The acting was dead on. Radcliffe has the right amount of screen prescense to make Harry convincing. Grant is good as Ron, but, due to lousy puberty and what it does to males, has teenage voice cracking. Emma Watson has the ability to show exasperation and affection at the same time. Tom Felton is just damned entertaining playing a jerk. I can not see any other British character actor playing Haggrid other than Coltrane. But, I will be curious to see who will play Headmaster Dumbledore since Richard Harris passed away.

If you're not already a fan of Harry Potter, this movie won't make you one. But, it does meet my mandate that 'family' entertainment does not need to be insipid. Nothing in this movie made me feel stupid about watching it.

Comments by: YACCS