A wizard of a film
Arthur J Pais
If you are one of those people who cannot bring themselves to admit they enjoy films meant for young adults, you might want to change your mind.
The Harry Potter books have sold more than 110 million copies across the globe in the last four years and have been translated into 40 languages. The first Harry Potter novel, which has now been transformed into the $ 100 million film -- Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone sold over 46 million copies worldwide.
A CNN-Time poll revealed that one in seven American adults has read at least one of the Potter books. Which makes the film one of the most awaited releases of the year.
You certainly will enjoy this engaging caper and would in all probability leave the cinema hall grinning from ear to ear.
Though the film prods on in parts and gets too reverential in bits, it does, on the whole, offer solid entertainment.
Never mind, if you haven't read any of the Harry Potter books.
Director Chris Columbus, who has some of the funniest hits in the last decade to his credit ( Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire), proves his worth.
The film is the story of an 11-year-old British boy -- living under the stairs in the house of his insufferable and mean aunt, uncle and cousin -- who suddenly learns that he's a wizard. Among his newly acquired missions is to head off to Hogwarts, the wizards' school to learn to battle evil and discover his parents' killers.
Die-hard fans of the book may complain some of their favorite episodes have been left off. But let us not forget that this 152 minute long film is easily 30 minutes longer than the usual Hollywood flick. And it is reasonably faithful to the book. But J K Rowling's dry wit will be missed.
Rowling had a major say in the selection of the director. She rejected Steven Spielberg's efforts to make this film. She liked Columbus - and says she is glad he kept his promises to her, including having an all-Brit cast.
Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, was earlier seen in insignificant roles in films like The Tailor of Panama. Though he lacks the impishness of Macaulay Culkin, Radcliffe impresses. He looks the part and offers a fine interpretation of his role as the anguished young man who cannot but retain his decency in the face of many evil challenges.
As his pal Ron, Rupert Grint is delightful. Though most of the buzz about the actors has centered around Radcliffe, it is Emma Watson, who makes the strongest impression of the young bunch. As the bucktoothed Hermione she is lively and engaging.
Richard Griffiths and Fiona Shaw are wicked as the nasty aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon. And among the veterans many shine: as Professor Snape, Alan Rickman drips venom. Robbie Coltrane is terrific as the intimidating-but-sweet-natured-eight-foot-tall groundskeeper Hagrid.
Maggie Smith offers another arresting performance in her four decade long acting career as a warm, yet stern, Professor McGonagall, who sometimes is transmogrified into a cat.
John Cleese, who plays the ghost, Nearly Headless Nick, has a small part in the film. Perhaps his role will develop further in the next Harry Potter installment.
Richard Harris, who was reluctant to act because he thought the film would demand too much of his time, finally gave in to his grand-daughter's pressure. He ought to thank her for he brings colour and spirit to the film. He is Professor Dumbledore, the white-haired and majestic headmaster who delivers great advice to his star pupil.
Stuart Craig's production design is excellent for most part -- gothic Hogwarts, the busy Diagon Alley (the shopping mall for wizards) and the goblin-run Gringotts Bank look wonderful. The makeup artists create many an impressive face -- including the standout Hagrid. The jaw-dropping special effects, you will definitely hear about.
The Quidditch match, between the rival houses of Gryffindor and Slytherin is nail-biting as the players swoop and whirl on their broomsticks following arcane rules of the game. Some may complain the Quidditch match is not as heart racing as it should have been. But the audiences at the premiere gave it a standing ovation.
Although the script and direction make Harry seem like a stuffed shirt at times, he manages to emerge as the noble character. Also it is not just Rowling's dry wit that is lost in the film. In the film, Harry, Ron and Hermione, seem to be too idealistic.
Another gripe is that the film loses its pace in the second half as Harry, Ron and Hermione try to figure out what the Sorcerer's Stone is, who's trying to get it, how it's protected and whether they should try to get it.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, John Cleese, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, John Hurt, Ian Hurt, Robbie Coltrane, Fiona Shaw
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenplay: Steve Kloves
Cinematographer: John Seals
Composer: John Williams
Costume Designer: Judianna Makovsky
Editor: Richard Francis-Bruce
Production Designer: Stuart Craig
Visual Effects Supervisor: Rob Legato