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Harry Potter and the... (2001)
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Review Date: November 11, 2001
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Steve Kloves
Producers: David Heyman
Actors:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint as Ronald Weasley
Plot:
Harry Potter is an orphaned British child, with horrible guardians and a secret past. As it turns out, his parents were killed by a fiendish wizard, and on his 11th birthday, he is invited to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and given the opportunity to fine-tune his own inert magical abilities.
Critique:
First off, anyone who reads this review should know that I have never read any of Harry Potter's books and knew very little about him before seeing this movie. Having said that, don't send me any fanboy emails claiming that I have no right to be voicing my opinion on something that I know nothing about, because this is also a movie, and for what it is, I am offering up my opinion. Alright, and now that I got that out of the way, what did I think about one of the most trumpeted features of this year? Well, much like PEARL HARBOR and TOMB RAIDER, two of the other big marketing movie productions of the year, I wasn't entirely impressed with much of what this film had to offer. Let's start off with the basic complaint, which might seem "small" in gripe, but is really quite telling: this movie is way too long! I was bored during several sequences, didn't see the point in some of the scenes and never felt as though the film essentially required its allotted runtime (some of this, I assume, was to remain "faithful" to the book, but this is a film, and things generally don't translate as well here). Which leads me to my next grievance, a pretty important point in any movie and that is...the story! The story in this film was practically absent. All I got out of two and a half hours was an "introduction" to Harry's character and his surroundings. Sure, some of it was entertaining, but there was no real tension, no "I wonder what will happen next" moments and certainly very little to drive the story forward, scene to scene (the whole "stone" angle was only played out during the film's final tier, and wasn't all that engaging either-and I won't even bring up the extremely bogus last few minutes, which were just plain manipulative and mean (announcing a "winning" team and then changing their minds a minute later- not cool!).

The film also lacked in any real action or "fun" scenes, in my opinion, and even the one "decent" energetic sequence, the Quidditch game, felt out of place, and seemingly just there to spice things up. I personally didn't care all that much for the game either, especially since the blue screen and obvious matte paintings in the background, distracted me somewhat. In fact, the overall CGI effects in the film weren't all that tremendous in the first place (anytime anyone was flying around real fast, it was quite obvious that it was a digital representation of them...not cool). In fact, other than the few bits from the trailer, the film didn't really feature any awe-dropping effects (although the giant Troll was admittedly pretty slick). Add that to a quickie, over-the-top ending, which seemed as anti-climactic as any that I've seen this year, the lack of any real sense of excitement in the film (or humor, for that matter), and some mannered "acting" by the way of Daniel Radcliffe early on in the film (although he was pretty solid in the second half and looked very much like Harry), and I can't really say that this film taught me anything about why this character is so loved by so many around the world.

Granted, some of the fantastical elements were nice and mysterious, Robbie Coltrane, excellent and a welcome addition as Hagrid, and the production design and score, second to none, but I was expecting to be blown away by this phenomenon, and found little more than a serviceable introduction to this world-renowned character instead. There were two other characters who I did appreciate a little more, Ron, played humorously and believably by Rupert Grint, as one of Potter's nerdy friends at school, and Draco, the blonde, slick-haired "Reggie Mantle" of the academy, a boy who could easily pass for a young Zorin (Christopher Walken's character from A VIEW TO A KILL). In the end, I can't really recommend that anyone who hasn't read the books see this film, because it's just not that good a movie (at least, from my "adult" point of view), although renting it on video, might be a decent way to introduce yourself to this world. If, on the other hand, words like "Quidditch", "Muggles" and the "Mirror of Erised" trigger certain emotional responses in your brain, than I'm sure that you're going to see this movie anyway, so I hope that whatever you do see, lives up to the imagination of the story that you had already built for yourself.

PS: Even though I wasn't necessarily bowled over by this first installment of the series, I have to admit that I do like the characters and their surroundings, and look forward to the next parts, in which they will hopefully have a stronger and more engaging plotline, better pacing and effects.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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