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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
2001 - PG - 142 Mins.
Director: Chris Columbus
Producer: David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe
Written By: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, John Cleese
Review by: David Trier
   
To be fair, about an hour of this movie is pretty entertaining, but the movie's two and a half hours long.

Harry Potter (pronounced Haaaa-deeigh Paw-taaaagh) was raised by his abusive aunt and uncle after his parents were killed by an evil wizard named Voldemort. When he turns eleven, he’s invited to join the Hogwart Academy of Stupid Sight Gags, at which he discovers he’s quite talented in wizadry. Aided by some stunted British kids, Harry discovers that one of the teachers is trying to steal something being guarded by a big three-headed dog. The “something” is the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is supposed to help evil Voldemort achieve immortality (and possibly serve as a cheap drug reference). Anyway, after some carefully structured obstacles with funny names, Harry must overcome his fears and save the world. When the school-year ends, he returns home… to, uh, his abusive aunt and uncle... I guess.

It seems you're not cool anymore if you don't like kid flicks, but frankly two and a half hours about a boy wizard just doesn't do it for me. For me, the joy of watching a kid flick always came from finding the hidden innuendos and politically subversive commentary that the authors snuck in, designed to go over a kid’s head and hit the adult between the eyes. I imagine this also serves to subliminally implant kids with subversive thought, something I highly encourage. Half of Shrek, Aladdin, Antz and so forth couldn’t possibly be understood by a kid. But all (100%) of Harry Potter can be entirely digested by a ten year-old. First of all, the film makes sure not to use anything that kids haven’t seen yet, sticking to old classics like wizards, witches, trolls, magic wands, giants, etc. Then it presents itself as the one thing kids do understand these days, a video game. For two and a half hours, Harry confronts and conquers a series of unrelated obstacles, one after the other, until he must destroy the big one and win the game.

The special effects are decent for the most part, with particular props being deserved in the set department and the “owl” department. But often the images are so blatantly computer generated, it makes the videogame structure of the story all that more noticeable. Robbie Coltrane is delightful as the giant, having long been a gifted comic actor. Alan Rickman is creepy as always, but highly underused. Masters of the artform, Richard Harris and John Hurt, are completely taken for granted as well with their bland, insignificant roles. Daniel Radcliffe sure does look like Harry Potter (according to the book covers), although he also looks like Saturday Night Live’s Rachel Dratch. He’s cute enough and has a terrific smile, but he's sadly not much of an actor. He's not "Young Anakin Skywalker" bad, no, that’s just unspeakable – at least Radcliffe memorized his lines – but still would it have killed him to emote? Just a little? Some of the craziest stuff imaginable is happening and all he does is change the relative size of his eyes! Whatever happened to the kid from Child’s Play? Now that kid was good. Rupert Grint is adorable as the Harry’s friend Ron Weasley. Emma Watson as the little girl, Hermione, is little more than irritating. To be fair, none of them are helped with particularly involving dialogue.

Chris Columbus directs this in his very own patented way of being a complete and total hack. No, it isn’t very nice of me to call Chris Columbus a hack (or Christopher Columbus a slave trader) but sometimes the truth is painful. Who can forget the sappy sentimentalism of Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Stepmom and Bicentennial Man? Yes, we thank you for writing Gremlins and Goonies, but please go away now. Go away… now.

There seems to be a misconception that if something makes a good book, it must make a good movie. But these are two different forms of story-telling, and simply splashing the pages onto the screen does little more than make a movie long.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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