Harry Potter and the... (2002)
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Review Date: November 10, 2002
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Steve Kloves
Producers: David Heyman
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint as Ronald Weasley
Harry Potter is set to return to his next semester at Hogwarts, but is warned to stay away by an elf with a big nose. Harry ignores the gnome's directive and goes back anyway, only to stumble upon a series of disturbing circumstances, in which a mysterious "chamber of secrets" is opened. Threatening the school's very existence, Harry and his friends take it upon themselves to uncover the mystery behind the sinister happenings.
A little more engaging than its first installment, the second session of the HARRY POTTER series, once again, goes on for way too long, involves a semi-interesting mystery that doesn't truly bowl one over and features enough "Potter speak" to bore non-Potter freaks (like myself) into an overly detailed stupor. On the other hand, this sequel does offer a lot more "excitement" in terms of plot (as opposed to the first one, which felt more like an introduction to the world of Harry), darkness, better CGI and a handful of new characters who brought much needed spice to the proceedings (dug the screaming baby plants...cute!). Dobby, in particular, was a gas, and I especially enjoyed any scene in which the goofy elf smacked himself against the head over and over again. Branagh's character was also fun to watch, bringing life to the film whenever it seemed to be slowing down, and Jason Isaacs, kicked his usual ass, as the stoic, creepy bad guy. The Quiddish match in this go-around was also much more accomplished, which mucho excitement, plenty of zigs & zags and thankfully for everyone's sake...much better CGI! (almost flawless...as opposed to the first film, in which it stood out like a sore thumb)

Unfortunately, the known characters weren't as interesting here (except for Draco, who wasn't really developed, but maintained one of the coolest sneers around), and most seemed to be going through the motions (I was the least impressed with Ron's character, who apparently only has two modes: being scared and looking frightened). Potter himself was also kind of lame (not the most captivating of leads), with very few "magic" or "spells" used at all (isn't this kid a wizard?) All he seemed to do was follow clues from here to there, until ultimately, the mystery was solved (Scooby style!) Not terribly engaging. The film did start off on a very solid foot though, with the introduction scene back at Potter's "home" pulling you right back into the enchantment, and the eventual escape and re-introduction to Hogwarts, fun as well (loved the whole "flying car" bit and the scene in which the tree went medieval on their ass). But once the chamber was opened, things seemed to slow down somewhat. I was also expecting a little more "adventure" and even though a couple of "action" scenes did make an impression (especially the "spiders" one), the finale was a letdown, in both the "action" and logical sense. I've never been a fan of a film's hero being aided at the last minute by an "outside source" swooping in out of the blue to save the day, and that's exactly what happens here. How about Harry use his friggin' magic skills? How about Harry show us why he's so special and kick some butt? And even after the resolution, Harry is, once again, "saved" by that same "outside source". What's the dealio? Can't this kid do anything on his own?

Granted, Harry does put together many of the pieces from the mysterious puzzle, but the investigation isn't particularly exciting and all of it is just...too long. I need more than one simple mystery to keep my attention focused for over two hours and forty minutes. A lot more suspense, a few more interesting turns or less time on the clock, would've made this film a whole lot better. The final scene also felt a little "tacked on", almost as if it was needed to add some "emotion" to the film. It didn't work for me. But as it stands, I will say that this sequel is a little more interesting than part one, but if you were like me and didn't particularly care for the first installment, I don't think this one will completely reverse your opinion of the special boy either. If, on the other hand, you're a major Harry Potter fan to begin with, have read all the books and have a detailed understanding of all the jargon used in the film, chances are that you don't really give a rat's ass about what a "Muggle" like me has to say about any of this, and will likely enjoy every moment of this book's translation to the big screen anyway. Whatever the case, this is the type of picture that is essentially "critic-proof", in that it will certainly go on to make hundreds of millions of dollars no matter what schmucks like me have to say about it.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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