||read the review
Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, the third in the series, is directed
this time by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, a surprising choice since his
most recent claim to fame was his NC-17-rated Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN. His version
of the Potter series is definitely darker and edgier than the first two, and it
also carries a very misleading and inappropriate rating of PG. A film with
some pretty frightening images from vicious werewolves to horrific black-robed
creatures called Dementers who literally suck a guy's face away, it is certain
to scare the wits out of little ones, whose parents undoubtedly have a much
lower level of fear in mind when they take their kids to PG-rated movies.
Although I liked this episode better than the two before it, the problem I
continue to have with the series is that it seems to be preaching only to the
choir. Sure, the books' fans will continue to love the series, but the movies
don't offer characters who are compelling enough to care about -- unless, of
course, you've already fallen in love with them by reading about them in J.K.
Don't get me wrong. I did have a reasonably good time at HARRY POTTER AND THE
PRISONER OF AZKABAN even if I never cared about what happened in the story.
The reason is simple. All of the Harry Potter films are filled with
imaginative moments, and none more so than this most recent one. The villain
this time is Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who is out to kill our young lad --
more on the ages of the actors in a minute -- Harry Potter. Sirius's mug is
plastered all over town on what has to be the best wanted poster ever.
Sirius's snarling and demonic looking face may be on a mere piece of paper, but
it is done with a video in a short loop. The newspapers also feature video
Other innovative creations include a wacky bus that looks like something that
Roger Rabbit might drive. The bus can slow time down and can even do a great
squeeze play to move between heavy traffic. The bus driver's comical companion
is a gabby shrunken head with a heavy Caribbean accent. There's a cool looking
animal that's a cross between a horse and an eagle. Riding or even patting him
can be as dangerous as dealing with hungry bucking bronco. The kids have a
monster textbook with jaws and claws that nip at them constantly. Rooms are
lit with hundreds of floating candles. There is a giant spider which one of
the kid wizards incapacitates by making it walk on roller skaters. And so on.
There is cleverness in droves around every corner.
Almost all of the actors are back from the previous film. In particular,
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint repeat their roles as the three
main kids, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. The youngsters are
all now thirteen, or so we are told. In real life, when making the movie, the
actors were one to two years older, but looked even older still. This may
prove to a problem for many moviegoers, perhaps if not this time, then
certainly next time. Of the three, only Watson demonstrates the spunk and
charisma that suggests she might have a chance for a long career after she has
stopped Pottering. And, interestingly, she is the only one of three who has
never performed in a Potterless film.
Other than Watson, there is one other actor who deserves special mention. Alan
Rickman, as Professor Severus Snape, is terrific with his droll, deadpan humor.
But even Rickman isn't enough to make it worth sitting through almost
two-and-a-half hours of a movie without enough for anyone other than a
certified Potter fan.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN runs a long 2:21. It is rated PG for
"frightening moments, creature violence and mild language" and would be
acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 15, gave the film ****, which he has given to every one in
the series -- although he said that he thought this one was the best. He liked
the suspense, the special effects, the action and the creatures. He especially
liked Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), a new character, and Emma Watson, who he
thought was hot. Although his interests in the Harry Potter books have waned,
his love of the Potter films hasn't.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes