Harry Potter and the... (2004)
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Review Date: May 29, 2004
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: Steven Kloves
Producers: Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Emma Watson as Hermione
Rupert Gint as Ron
Harry Potter is put in jeopardy when a vicious murderer by the name of Sirius Black escapes Azkaban prison and is apparently on the lookout for all things Potter. Hermione topless...ensues! Just kidding, of course. The film essentially follows Potter and his two friends as they attempt to stay one step ahead of the baddie and try to figure out why the man wants Harry dead (other than the fact that the little wizard-kid's a billionaire, of course). The third installment of the obscenely popular Potter series ensues...
As a laymen who has not read any of the Harry Potter novels, as someone who didn't particularly care for either of the two previous movies, I can safely say that the third part of this children's series is certainly the most accomplished in terms of its look and atmosphere, but also the lamest in terms of its story, development and conclusion. How any film with Gary Oldman in it can go wrong is a mystery to me (although having him on-screen for about 10 minutes is a start), but the main idea with any film, in my opinion, would be to actually develop a plotline that gives the audience at least three different acts, as opposed to a one-line synopsis that can describe the entire movie: "Sirius Black escapes from prison and is out to get Harry". That's basically what we get from the film from scene one, and a long 140 minutes later, we are given an extremely anti-climactic and tepid resolution, that doesn't only let down any sort of basic build-up that had come before it, but left me feeling very little closure. At this point, I'll be glad to admit that these films might simply be for "fans" of the books, because to be honest...I just don't get the appeal. Sure, the whole "wizard" angle is an interesting one, most of the effects in this film are particularly accomplished and the continuity of the characters from film to film is semi-engaging, but does anybody really care about the one-note storyline? Where are the obstacles? Where are the memorable sequences? Where are the situations of peril, the action scenes, the powers used by Harry the mighty wizard? (this kid might just be Gandalf's illegitimate son, according to the number of times he actually uses his powers...)

To top things off, much like its predecessors, this movie just goes on for way too long. An easy half and hour of supposed "plot" could have been cut from this thing in order to snap things up, including extraneous sequences featuring an eagle-horse thingie, the rain-drenched game of Quiddish, any scenes with Emma Thompson's over-the-top new teacher character and anything having to do with that lame-ass, one-dimensional "bad kid" Malfoy, who is nothing more than a thorn in everyone's side...but not for any other reason than because, well...I guess the film needs to have a thorn in everyone's side. Furthermore, if the film is called HARRY POTTER, how come Hermione is the character who ultimately seems to have the greater chops? Bah. The ending also felt a tad repetitive with certain "time-referential" elements not helping matters and the werewolf CGI not providing the film which its greatest effects. The things I did appreciate about the film included its many cute, small wizardy special effects, the continued great work by Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, the welcome addition of David Thewliss and his character of Professor Lupin, the "dementors" roaming the skies, as well as the zippy sequence with the double-decker bus. Other than that, there is very little about this bloated package that delivered anything of great impact, particularly its story-line, which as previously mentioned, is basically one-tone in nature, and ultimately, not altogether interesting, surprising, entertaining or fulfilling (that enough "ing" words for you?) Even Daniel Radcliffe comes off badly in a couple of scenes where the now-teen actor is asked to convey actual emotion-I guess he doesn't possess the wizardry prowess to make himself a good actor just yet. Overall, the film was gorgeous to look at (the snow scenes were brilliant), but bored me for most of its runtime and didn't inject any of the so-called magical appeal that everyone else seems to be getting from these flicks into me. Oh well, to each his own, as I always say...
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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