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   HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (2001) 

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CAST
Daniel Radcliffe
Rupert Grint
Emma Watson
Robbie Coltrane
Richard Harris
Richard Griffiths
Alan Rickman
Maggie Smith
John Hurt
Ian Hart
Warwick Davis

DIRECTED BY
Chris Columbus

PURCHASE


DVD




Original Novel




Time: 152 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama/Family/Fantasy

Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design, Art Direction and Score.


Being a big fan of the books, I like millions of others around the world couldn't wait to see this film. To see Harry's magical world brought to life. Much like Harry's enormous fame, the film has a lot to live up to. Harry seems to constantly overcome this burden, the film does not. I think it's too much to ask that any filmmaker recreate such an intricate and amazing world. As a writer J.K. Rowling can weave her story any way she wants, at the length of her choosing. Chris Columbus is forced to truncate this detailed adventure into 2 1/2 hours and that's just not enough time to capture the essence of Harry's world. He certainly got all the details right, which is a feat in itself. However, the film lacks the spirit and soul of the novels. By trying to cram everything in, what one gets is merely a glimpse of the full story, sort of the Reader's Digest version, instead of a fully fleshed out tale. If I hadn't read the novels, I fear I would have been rather confused by all the goings on. The movie is edited within an inch of its' life, leaving no time to take in all the action or get to know the characters.

I was truly surprised to find myself slightly bored with the proceedings. Maybe it's because I already knew what was going to happen. However, I have the feeling that Columbus was more worried about the details than the story. Sure, fans would be disappointed if things were left out, but I think that would have been forgiven if he had captured the heart of the tale. Don't get me wrong, this is a first-class effort. Turning this modern day classic into an entertaining movie can't have been easy. It was wonderful to see Hogwarts and all the characters brought to brilliant life. The casting is truly inspired. You can't do better than Harris, Smith and Rickman. They are consummate professionals that bring weight and enormous talent to the film. Coltrane as Hagrid steals the show. He captures the simple, trusting nature of this gentle giant perfectly. I just wish we got to know everyone a little better. The youngsters – Radcliffe, Grint and Watson – hold their own fairly well. There's good chemistry between them and they manage to be more engaging than annoying. Their roles call for more reacting than acting, so I'm holding my opinion on their talent until after the next film. Radcliffe made me believe he was Harry, so that's enough for me.


"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends."

As far as the story is concerned, if you haven't read the novels, shame on you. Even as someone way over the age of the target audience, I found myself entranced by the books, unable to put them down. Rowling has managed to write in such a style that the novels are enjoyable for both kids and adults. Not an easy task. However, if you're one of those people who loathe reading, I'll try to give you a condensed version of the tale. The film follows the year in Harry Potter's life where he learns that he's a wizard, as were his parents, and a famous one at that. His life up to this point has been fairly dismal, living as a slave to the whims of his vicious and petty Aunt and Uncle. However, upon his eleventh birthday, he discovers that he's going to Hogwarts School of Magic and that he's responsible for defeating the most powerful wizard in the world. Despite an innate talent for wizardry, Harry's path isn't an easy one. He makes friends – Hagrid, Ron and Hermione – and learns that he has enemies – Professor Snape, Draco Malfoy and Voldemort, the evil wizard who murdered his parents and tried to kill him as well. He also develops a real nose for trouble.

Of course, it's not always his fault. His greatest enemy, Voldemort, has been in hiding since their scuffle 11 years before, but that doesn't mean Harry's safe from his wraith. On top of all his regular problems – issues with homework, scuffles with other classmates, no family to call his own – Harry involves himself in the protection of the Sorcerer's Stone, a magical rock that grants the owner eternal life, attempting, with the help of Ron and Hermione, to solve the mystery of who's trying to steal it. It's a difficult task, filled with great danger and requiring the talents of all three young wizards. However, in the end, the final show down is left to Harry, who uses the only weapons at his disposal – his courage and integrity – to bring down the evil-doer and save the wizard world once again. It sounds rather high-handed, but believe me, it all comes together in an exciting and interesting way. More so if you're familiar with the tale. For those non-fans in the audience, the film is an excellent primer into this amazing world, one, I hope for your sake, you'll delve into further. The film captures the basics of the story, but to be truly satisfying you need to know the entire story.

Without a doubt, the best part of this film is the art direction. The world of Harry Potter comes magically to life in the best way imaginable. From the welcome feast at Hogwarts to the crowded streets of Diagon Alley, the sets are picture perfect, vibrant and evocative. It's a whole new world. One of the best parts of the film is the Quidditch match. It's clearly done with wires and blue screens, but you won't care. This cross between soccer and rugby played on broomsticks hundreds off feet above the ground is a sight to behold. It's so exciting it takes your breath away. It's unfortunate the rest of the film doesn't capitilize on the energy created by this sequence. I think it's the one scene all fans will love. Much like THE PHANTOM MENACE, the experience has the feeling of a prologue. The film takes so much time explaining everything, there's not much room left for a full blown plot. Of course, now that the world is created, the next film will be able to concentrate more on the main story than on the explanatory details. I can't wait.

All in all, not a bad effort, just a somewhat disjointed one. Still a must-see for fans. How could you not?



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