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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
DVD disk
10.05.2004 By: Scott Weinberg
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone order
Chris Columbus

Daniel Radcliffe
Richard Harris
Robbie Coltrane


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A pre-teen wizard extraordinaire discovers his awesome powers when he’s invited to enroll in the mythical Hogwart’s School of Wizardry.
The biggest complaint among book-lovers is that their movie adaptations simply don't measure up. Either a favorite subplot has been excised, the cast doesn't "fit", or any one of a thousand possible discrepancies. Most adaptations simply change too much, and that's a bad thing. But in the case of Harry Potter, virtually NOTHING is changed, and that's also a somewhat bad thing. In an effort to remain faithful to the beloved source material, director Chris Columbus essentially takes the easy way out by simply 'recreating' every single chapter of the book. Although the onscreen antics are often quite entertaining, there's a cohesion between the scenes that's lacking. In a novel, changes in location or spaces in time can easily be separated by a new chapter. Storytelling in movies is a bit trickier; the chapters have to mesh more seamlessly. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the plot comes off more like a series of separate set pieces strung together.

But perhaps I'm being a bit harsh, because those 'separate set pieces' certainly manage to hold your interest and dazzle the eyes. The film boasts a truly impressive set design and a castle full of fantastic acting performances. There are some solid laughs, jolts and even some nice messages for the kids. All in all, this first installment is a damn fine piece of family entertainment. But Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is ultimately a disappointment. Not because it's no fun, but because it's just too...safe. And just because Harry Potter is a 'fine piece of family entertainment', that doesn't make it a fantastic movie.
There’s much been much ballyhoo surrounding this eagerly awaited 2-disc set, but the end result seems to be much ado about very little. Disc 1 houses the feature presentation, as well as the theatrical teaser and the full-length trailer.

Disc 2 is where the headaches begin. You’re taken immediately to The Great Hall, and it’s here that you choose where you’d like to explore. Let’s start with:

Diagon Alley: First you gotta break a bunch of bricks in the proper order. Or just smash four bricks at random to achieve entry. Either way, it’s a pointless roadblock. Once you’re in the alley, you have three choices: Gringott’s Bank (click on the key first) to get some money, Ollivander’s Wand Shop to purchase a magic wand, and Eeyelop’s Owl Emporium, for no discernable reason whatsoever.

Amount of clicking involved: Lots. Actual worthwhile content: Zero.

Tour: This is a point-of-view 360 walk-through of Gryffindor Dormitory and The Great Hall. Of nominal interest, as the trivia tidbits mentioned throughout are dull at best. Every thirty seconds, you skip forward to see the next hallway. Your kids will sit through this feature once, only to see if something exciting happens. It doesn’t.

Amount of clicking involved: Kind of a lot, but not too bad. Actual worthwhile content: Very little.

Classrooms: There are four different classrooms you can peek into: potions, defense against the dark arts, spells & charms, and transfiguration. Each classroom contains a few hints about the infamous “Third Floor Corridor” and a handful of movie montages focusing on the individual professors. The spells & charms class features a look at Harry Potter delivered in eight different languages, including Spanish, Dutch and Hebrew. After about 15 seconds, you’ll be done with the classrooms and ready for the hidden third-floor corridor (click the middle pedestals a few times). Once you’re in the corridor, play the flute to make the three-headed dog fall asleep, grab the middle key (the one with the broken wing), and be sure to drink the magic potion found in the circular flask. Do all that crazy bullshit and you’re rewarded with a series of 7 deleted scenes, some of which are fairly cool, but none of which are worth the 45 minutes you wasted clicking your remote like a vibrating epileptic.

Amount of clicking involved: More than you think your remote is capable of. Actual worthwhile content: Deleted scenes are always nice, so why hide them?

Sorting Hat: Huh? I think this one counts as a game since I clicked around for 20 minutes before realizing what was up. This feature offers a very brief audio description of each house of Hogwart's. Filler.

Amount of clicking involved: Very little, if you’re smarter than I am. Actual worthwhile content: Zilch.

Library: Here you’ll find five books:

#1 is a collection of storyboards and conceptual art. #2 is a silly hint regarding that damn hidden corridor. But we’re passed that by now, so what gives? #3 is a yearbook of sorts, featuring character montages for each of Hogwart’s more celebrated students. #4 is a brief explanation of the four “ghost hosts” present at Hogwart’s #5 is a book that screams like a ghost. Sure to be a repeat favorite.

Amount of clicking involved: Surprisingly, not much. Actual worthwhile content: The storyboards and concept art were a nice surprise. Hey, actual content!

Hogwart’s Grounds: Here’s a hodge-podge collection of Potterobilia: a silly catch-the-snitch game, followed by an explanation on the rules of Quidditch. You’ll also find another “360 tour”, this time through Hagrid’s hut. And unless you somehow couldn’t catch the snitch in the earlier game, you’re offered yet another lesson on Quidditch, a game that’s apparently more complicated than Chess and Calculus combined.

Amount of clicking involved: A whole lot. Actual worthwhile content: Very little, unless you’ve never actually seen the movie.

Extra Credit: DVD-ROM blurb.

Amount of clicking involved: Two clicks. Actual worthwhile content: I’ll let you know when I get a DVD-ROM player and give a crap.

Interviews: Wow! Here’s some more actual STUFF! You know, the stuff that other DVDs squeeze in next to the trailers only without the 5,500 extraneous clicks (Harry Potter owes me a new DVD remote!). Entitled Capturing the Stone, this fifteen-minute piece features interview segments with director Chris Columbus, producer David Heyman, screenwriter Steve Kloves, and production designer Stuart Craig. Though this featurette hardly goes in to much detail, it’s nice to see some actual behind-the-scenes footage and discussions involving the film’s set design, casting, book-to-screen adaptation and even a few tidbits about Harry Potter 2.

Amount of clicking involved: Just one click. Actual worthwhile content: Again, it’s just cool to see some actual insight into the moviemaking process.

So there you have it. An entire second disc devoted to nothing more than a few deleted scenes, some concept art, and a brief interview featurette. I can’t imagine anyone but the truly rabid Potter maniacs to enjoy what Disc 2 has to offer, and even then they’ll only visit this stuff once. As far as kids go, I doubt the “Harry Potter DVD experience” will replace the X-Box anytime soon. I’d be willing to bet one-third of Harry Potter’s worldwide box-office gross that we’ll be seeing a future DVD version of this movie sometime in the future. A version that replaces pointless bells and whistles with stuff that actually complements the film, like an audio commentary or ANYTHING involving the novelist who actually created this whole crazy universe in the first place!
This movie offers a visual feast and a strong cast, but lacks that magic spark so evident in classic adaptations like THE WIZARD OF OZ and SUPERMAN. It's certainly not a BAD movie, but Columbus seemed to know it was a sure thing, and took the safe way out. The DVD is a whole lot of clicks and colors, with very little beneath the surface.
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