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IN SHORT: Like it matters what we think??? [Rated PG for some scary moments and mild language. 154 minutes] For those that have kidlets: Download your choice of Harry Potter Wallpapers and check out our Harry Potter Stores: posters and books; toys and games
Here we go with the first guaranteed monster hit of the year. If you've got kids or have exposure to kids, you already have read at least one Harry Potter book, either to yourself or to your kids, or you know Potter because it's almost the only thing all the little kidlets are talking about. No doubt about it, they've got every twitch and wave of the story committed to memory. We remind y'all that Rule One of this site is that you shouldn't have to read the book to understand the movie. No comparison is made to Source Material. Onwards.
Way back in the mists of time, young Harry Potter's parents were killed in a car crash, so he's been told, leaving him in the care of his Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw). Auntie and Unca prefer to dote over their whining, spoiled brat of a natural born son, Dudley (Harry Melling). Harry is forced to live an unpleasant life in a small closet underneath the front stairs of the Dursley house. As his eleventh birthday approaches, strange things begin to happen to the boy with a lightning bolt image scarred into his forehead. First, a snow white owl delivers some sort of letter -- Harry never gets mail -- which Uncle Vernon destroys. More envelopes, all addressed to "Harry Potter, Under the Stairs" began to arrive until the house is overwhelmed and the Dursleys flee to a cabin in the country. That doesn't stop a giant named Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), who busts down the door delivers the news that Harry has been admitted to the prestigious Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry, you see, is the son of a witch (Petunia's sister) and a wizard. Genetically, he may be the most powerful of all wizards in the World. His name is spoken with awe in that community since it seems that, as a baby, he managed not to get killed by the Most Evil "He Whose Name We Dare Not Speak," the bad wizard that killed his folks. As disgusted as they are of the prospects of having a wizard in the family, the Dursleys are more than happy to get rid of the boy. So Harry and Hagrid head for the train station, to depart from a Platform, number 9 and 3/4 doesn't seem to exist.
Once he arrives at Hogwart's, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) quickly finds friends: the annoying know-it-all Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and a second generation, living in hand me downs wizard, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). There's also dangerous competition in the form of Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) whose attitude and looks would qualify him for the Hitler Youth brigade, if wizards had such things. They don't. They have Dark Magic and a House (dormitory) called Slytherin that tends to get all these bad eggs, all directed to 'em by a magical Sorting Hat (Leslie Phillips). Harry, Hermione and Ron all have the good luck to be sorted to the Gryffendor House, and from here on in we merrily bounce from discovery to discovery as our heroic trio learn all about potions and wand waving, learn to play a game called Quidditch and discover a giant three headed dog named Fluffy guarding a forbidden room on the Third Floor.
Waitasec. We forgot the wise Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore (Richard Harris); the eccentric and potentially evil Professor Snape (Alan Rickman); the tough as nails Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith); and last but not least, the stuttering Professor of Defense against the Dark Arts, Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart). And John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander, the creature who sells Harry his first Wand. And John Cleese as Almost Headless Nick, a Ghost whose presence is a waste of good talent (which means you know he was important enough in the book that he had to make an appearance, so to speak).
If you haven't gotten a sense of it, this adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone tries to squeeze in so much of the novel that all the supporting character are sorely underdeveloped as characters. Only Hagrid has much to do in this tale since he explains all of it to the wide eyed trio of kidlets. What Steve Kloves' adapted script does, had you not read the book (which takes us back to Rule One), is deliver a pale imitation of Star Wars. Really -- A novice wizard is given the Choice between his innate common sense and Dark Magic which can make him incredibly powerful, and then battles Evil until it is destroyed. It isn't, of course, which means a sequel next year. Harry is Luke and the Evil that is The One Whose Name We Dare Not Speak because the character isn't scary -- unless you're read the book.
We may as well we spitting into the wind.
For those that haven't read the book, the first hour plus consists of perfunctory introductions of the multitude of characters that will inhabit this story and all the sequels (already in production) to follow. Perfunctory is the right word. Even having read the books a year back we had to keep nudging the grown up fan we brought along to remind us who was who. We were expecting a magical blast akin to watching The Wizard of Oz or the aforementioned Star Wars. We found ourselves tapping our feet, and enjoying the understated special effects, until the last hour of this extravaganza let loose. The Quidditch game rocks the screen and must be seen to be believed. The mystery unleashed when Fluffy is discovered gives some direction to a film whose purpose seems to be the preparation of sequels. Saying much more about the only part of the film worth saying anything about violates Rule Two of this Site: Don't give away the Third Act. We'll just say, hold on, this Potter gets much better in its final hour.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, he would have paid . . .
Just a little less than dateflick level. We write for grownups. Even the lass at our side, who was teased at work because she admitted to being a major Potter freak, walked out as we did. Happy, but not enthusiastic about the film. What should've and could've been a blast on every level, for kids and kids at heart, was merely OK.
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