Rev up your Nimbus 2000 broomstick 'cause we're off to see the wizards
of Hogwarts! In this chaotic world, no diversion could be more welcome than the
first of J.K. Rowling's best-sellers - and I can assure you that the film
version is, indeed, faithful to the book.
Harry Potter is the bespectacled lad who - on his 11th birthday -
learns that he is a wizard. Years ago, as an infant with a very special scar on
his forehead, he was deposited on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle, the
Dursleys, in Surrey. The Dursleys are "muggles," mere mortals who despise Harry,
forcing him to sleep in a cupboard below the stairs. But when Harry is invited
to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, his entire life
changes. As the bewitching tale unfolds, Harry befriends clever Hermione Granger
and courageous Ron Weasley - and they embark on an incredible adventure
involving an insidious plot by the dark wizard Voldemort to steal the Sorcerer's
Stone which conveys immortality and the elixir of life.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves has so cleverly adapted the
character-driven fantasy that even J.K. Rowling found it as flawless as the
perceptive vision of director Chris Columbus, particularly as reflected in his
impeccable all-British casting. Radiating impish intelligence, Daniel Radcliffe
is perfect as Harry, as is Emma Watson as the bossy but brilliant Hermione and
Rupert Grint as the wry, irreverent Ron; this trio is unbeatable. Only Robbie
Coltrane could have embodied the gruff-yet-gentle giant groundskeeper Hagrid
and, similarly, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ian Hart, and Zoe
Wanamaker are sternly superb as Harry's teachers. As the distrustful Dursleys,
Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw and Harry Melling are appropriately dastardly and
dreadful. John Cleese adds zaniness as Nearly Headless Nick, plus there's
Warwick Davis, Julie Walters, John Hurt and Tom Felton.
Pivotal to the visual enchantment is the production team of designer
Stuart Craig, costumer Judianna Makovsky, and director of photography John
Seale. They've created a richly textured, incredibly intoxicating world, filled
with surprises - like the invisibility cloak, the mysterious Mirror of Erised,
moving paintings and sliding staircases. John Williams' sweeping soundtrack,
utilizing strings and brass, effectively evokes the changing mood, particularly
during the climactic Wizards Chess match. The breath-taking action scenes
revolve around Quidditch, a high-speed aerial sport played on turbo-powered
broomsticks. The Quidditch match is truly dazzling, comparable to the excitement
of the pod race in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace."
Rated PG for some scary moments and mild language, the 2 1/2 hours
flies by. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone" is a spellbinding 10 - the magical movie against which all
others will be measured for the rest of the year. It's a young Indiana Jones
meets The Wizards of Oz!
Steve Kloves has already completed the screenplay for the second
J.K. Rowling installment, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," and is
currently adapting the third Harry Potter novel, while Ms. Rowling gears up for
the publication of her fifth novel, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"
in spring, 2002.
Copyright © 2001 Susan Granger