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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Rated: PG
RunTime: 142 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genres: Kids, Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Rupert Grint, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Julie Christie, David Bradley, Emily Dale

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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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. Rowling's novels.

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 clips.

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

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