Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Directed by Chris Columbus
Review by Matt Heffernan <email@example.com>
It may be a little belated, but this review isn't too late. The first Harry Potter film is still going strong after several weeks, and should keep on earning well into 2002. And if the world could wait three years for this film to come out, my readers could wait a few weeks more.
For those of you who have been thus far unexposed to the phenomenon, here is the basic premise. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is a boy that finds out after his eleventh birthday that he is a wizard. Not only that, but he is a very famous and presumably powerful wizard, as he had survived an attack from the evil wizard Voldemort, who killed both his parents when he was a baby.
He leaves his muggle (non-wizard) guardians behind and enrolls as Hogwarts, Britain's top academy for young wizards and witches. This film depicts his first year there, in which he makes friends with Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), becomes a star quidditch (a sort of airborne cross between basketball and polo) player, and saves the school from dark forces.
Along for the ride is an all-star British cast playing the Hogwarts faculty and the other adults in Harry's life. For those who read the book, it seems perfectly obvious that Maggie Smith should play McGonagall, Alan Rickman play Snape, and Richard Harris be the only choice for Dumbledore. Of course, Robbie Coltrane was born to play Hagrid, and it's an immense pleasure to see John Cleese play Nearly Headless Nick. If these character names don't mean anything to you, then you are obviously not between the ages of 9 and 12.
However, this phenomenon has touched all ages, including jaded film critics who eagerly awaited the film as much as any child who had read the book. It's a wonderful story that is brought to life in exquisite detail by director Chris Columbus. It stays so true to the book that the screenplay is merely a transcription of the book's dialogue, which brings the total running time to a whopping 152 minutes.
Don't let the length scare you, though. It goes by quickly, and keeps the whole family entertained. Some more sophisticated readers of the book (read: adults who like to pick apart children's literature) will notice that there is no artistic value added by the film adaptation, and that to get a full sense of the story, one needs to read the book. Of course, that is true with almost any filmed novel, but this film in particular is more of a straight translation than a creative adaptation.
Of course, most kids won't quibble on these fine points. I envied the children sitting in front of me at the screening. They were the perfect age for the film, if a little young for the books. They waved their straws in the air as if they were magic wands, conjuring the film's magic by themselves. Meanwhile, there were a couple of muggles behind me who needed to have a conversation throughout the film. Apparently, the man had read the book, and felt it necessary to explain everything to the woman. Although judging by her side of the conversation, she needed the explanation. Luckily, most children are brighter than adults who talk in movie theatres.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan