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  Film Reviews: Another Year, Another Big Monster: Harry Potter  

Sunday, December 29
Another Year, Another Big Monster: Harry Potter
If you’ve not heard of Harry Potter, you’re either living the most sheltered life possible or you are one of the famed Illuminati busy developing food irradiation methods that will finally allow complete control over the world’s population. Then again, Harry Potter may very well be a part of this worldwide plot...

But I digress.

To date, Harry Potter has already taken in over 200 million dollars (yes, I’m behind, but you try to stay on top of your reviews while being forced to maintain holiday cheer in the presence of mall shoppers). This is no accident, as Harry Potter is a genuine phenomenon. Children and adults alike read the books about young Harry Potter with a voraciousness normally reserved for OSU/Michigan week in Central Ohio. Harry is an awkward young man, despised by his repugnant aunt, uncle and cousin who discovers that he is, in fact, quite special. It’s a universal theme that becomes cooler when you realize that being special involves magic, CGI effects and the ability to meet lifelong friends on the first day at your new school.

Fastforward to Harry’s second year at school. We already know all about Hogwart’s, Lord Voldermort, Quidditch matches, and that even at school, Harry has a rivalry in that awful Malfoy kid. What we may not be prepared for is Dobby, the Harry Potter answer to Jar-Jar Binks. Dobby comes to warn Harry that he should not return to Hogwart’s. Had Harry taken Dobby’s advice, this movie would have lasted ten minutes. With a budget over 100 million dollars, you must assume that Harry will return to school.

This film is titled “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” The Chamber of Secrets is at Hogwarts, and it is only opened when the true heir of Slytherin is present. If this seems a bit much to take to take in, never fear, the joy of Harry Potter is not in the details, but in the broader themes of the geeky-kid-turned-reluctant-hero (see Luke Skywalker for similar themes).

Since seeing the film, a friend of mine and I have debated whether it was a good idea for us to take the Harry Potter books with us on vacation last summer. At the time, these books were identified as perfect beach fare – quick, easy and fun to read. However, during the second film, we found ourselves waiting for key events to happen in each film. While Kenneth Branagh was brilliant as the hapless Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor, the book-described silvery mane of hair was missing. While the film did do a fine job of adapting the book, other key questions come to mind:

       - Would Harry Potter survive on his own as a film character?
       - How much of these movies are chocked full of “cult” items designed specifically not to offend those who are already fans of the books (also known as – why can’t we do these movies in 90 minutes?)?
       - What will happen when these child actors outgrow their characters and are replaced with actors that begin to look like them (or will we go 90210)?
       - Is there already a drive to write the remaining books to make them “adaptive-friendly?”
       - Is there something about movies designed to make 100 million dollars in less than 10 days that will be detrimental to the movie-making process as a whole?

Okay, the last concern is wholly mine, but the other three must cross the minds of everyone that’s read the books (and now awaits the fifth) and plopped down their hard-earned to see the movie versions. At some point, it would seem that either the book OR the film franchise will suffer as individuals decide that there is only so much Harry Potter that they can take.

All in all, this is a movie that you really can’t miss with as far as an enjoyable three hours goes (you have to count the endless previews). You’ve got an underdog reluctant hero, clear-cut good and bad guys, struggles that can only be overcome through friendship, and plenty of comic relief. Once again, if you don’t know the majority of the story already, keep in mind that I won’t be eating those irradiated strawberries anytime soon…

The Usual:

What it’s Worth: If you’re a Harry Potter junkie, it’s full fare. Otherwise, it’s a nice matinee – and since you’ll be there so long that it will be nightfall before you get out, you can feel like you got the full-fare experience for a little less.

Annoying Theater Goer: This may have actually been us. Having this compulsive need to see the film opening weekend, we agreed to a 10:30 show without thinking through the end-time. Friend and I both napped briefly during the film as it was a balmy 80 degrees in the theater. We hope we weren’t snoring.

Main Reason To See This Film: Great effects and a fun story based on the power of friendship.

Main Reason Not To See This Film: The compulsive need of the filmmakers to capture the ENTIRE book on film leads to several slow parts in the movie where characters are reduced to explaining plot elements.

MPAA Rating: PG

Nudity: No.

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