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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint
Director: Chris Columbus
Rated: PG
RunTime: 161 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genres: Kids, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Christian Coulson

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

As though "Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets" could benefit from any more publicity given that the entire first weekend is sold out in virtually every Manhattan theater, there is this item from CompuServe's news outleton opening day..."In the headquarters of the Oneness Pentecostal Church, the Rev. Douglas Taylor sees the hand of the devil in the appeal of the Harry Potter books and films. A public book-cutting took place at which Taylor and the other pastors tore a copy of the J.K. Rowling book on which the film is based, before a clapping audience of 100 people at a local hotel in Lewiston, Maine. 'To Taylor, the film is nothing more than an instructional manual for the dark arts that can ensnare children in a destructive obsession with the occult. Satan is the inspiration for the Potter series."

Did anyone doubt that Satan could attract a wider audience than his principal opponent?

What about this second episode of the series, directed once again by Chris Columbus with the same principal players? The movie embraces perhaps the most mature blending of human beings with animation since the technology was introduced a dozen years ago in Robert Zemeckis's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" What's more Daniel Radcliffe probably has more appeal to Potter's targeted audience than the then forty-six year old Bob Hoskins. This "Potter" is all about costumes and the richest production values of any movie so far this year, but has a plot that only a ten-year-old could understand.

So I abducted my neighbor's ten-year-old, Stacey, for a half hour and she explained the story like this...

The title character returns to his school of wizards, Hogwarts, but to escape from his folks he needs more than the skill of a woman about to climb down a ladder to elope with her lover. Together with an annoying elf named Dobby who speaks regularly in the third person and who could be called self-deprecating except for the fact that he has nothing worth deprecating, Harry takes off in a flying car, fails to catch the 11 o'clock train to the school, and must settle, alas, for a flying car which unfortunately does not have any personnel checking for box cutters. Even stranger things are happening inside Hogwarts than occur daily at New York public high schools. Someone has opened the scary chamber of secrets, so like a combination of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), his best friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and the cutesy Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are determined to get to the bottom of the conundrum.

Using road-and-buddy movie premises, the trio find themselves immersed in a series of adventures, one scarier than the other, climaxing in a battle between the threesome and some nasty spiders, a struggle with a serpent that could turn some audience members into ophidiophobics, and an ultimate confrontation with the evil Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson).

This offers Kenneth Branagh his most humorous role as the great British thesp performs in the role of the terminally narcissistic Gilderoy Lockhart, perpetually falling in love with himself while Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy projects evil before he opens his mouth or gives voice to his design. With a considerable number of violent scenes, there is nothing romantic about this episode (perhaps to maintain a PG rating), but Nick Dudman stands out for his construction of creatures and particularly Stuart Craig whose sets take us out of the daily humdrum of kirsche, kuche and kinder into a world of wizardly with a Disneyesque chateau and a series of mazes for which a search for exits would stump even Mighty Mouse.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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