If Harry Potter himself played witness to the phenomenon he is creating, the sensation would cause his spectacles to steam up.
I’ll admit, I’m a newcomer when it comes to J.K Rowling’s popular character, and in the media screening I attended, it was blatantly obvious, judging by the costumed and excited guests, that I had a lot of catching up to do. “Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone” wasn’t on my must-see list for the year – maybe it should have been.
Director Christopher Columbus has created a delightful and miraculous experience with possibly the greatest built-in audience since the 1930’s. “Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone” boasts wonderful performances, grand characters and a vivacious music score from John Williams – the perfect recipe for a successful film.
Young Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) lives under a broom cupboard under his adopted parents home. Fortunately, to his quiet delight, Harry discovers on his 11th birthday that he is, in fact, the child of wizards and that his destiny is to leave the drab world of Muggles (non magic-folk) to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Soon after the school’s groundkeeper Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) takes Harry on a shopping expedition to a hidden, magical part of London, he straps himself into a seat on The Hogwarts Train.
Hogwarts is a boarding school like no other. Children are taught to fly broomsticks, are given lectures on how to use their magical wand and play Quidditch, an airborne combination of rugby and rollerball. What Harry didn’t count on would be that his heritage would cause him to be the target of a few sinister faculty members. However, with the assistance of two new friends he’ll stir up a spell that’ll make those shadowy villains think twice about messing with this tyke.
Where ”Harry Potter” scores most of it’s point’s is in casting. Daniel Radcliffe is a dead-ringer for the screen Potter, and has great screen presence. As his friend, Ron Weasley, Rupert Grint is equally convincing. Kudos also to some of the more vintage of the stars – Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane, who is magnificent as the larger than life Hagrid. Unfortunately, a few of actors are wasted. Infamous screen villain Alan Rickman has little to do here, as does Ian Hart, who puts in a bland performance and John Cleese’s role as Nearly headless nick is so brief you’ll miss it if you duck out to the loo.
Christopher Columbus’ directing, although poignant, is blatantly obvious. At times it needed more wit than corny laughs (But remember this is the guy who bought us “Home Alone”). But more significantly, Columbus has made a faithful adaptation of the book – even if he had to cut back on some characters and moments from the novel.
Fans of the books will not be disappointed.
The only beef I have with the film is that it runs for about 2 and a half hours. Now, what kind of kid is going to be able to sit down patiently and watch a movie for that long! Having said that though, it would have been a difficult task to edit even more out of it – the movie would have been indigestible – and some of the enchantment that is in there may have been lost forever.
So whilst I’m not in line yet to buy my Harry Potter stickers or colour in my Harry Potter coloring book – I’ll recommend this to those that are already members of the spectacled magician’s fan club. I’m almost positive, if they can handle the running time, that they will have a delightful time.
Blu-Ray Details and Extras
A combination of new and old extra features – At least a dozen featurettes on the various aspects of the movie; Interviews; Deleted Scenes; Media; an introduction by Radcliffe; and some exclusive BD-Live content that opens up a magic portal where you can provide your own commentary and also chat along with other Potter fans – saddled alongside a beautiful, crisp 2.40:1 16:9 Enhanced transfer. Definitely one to add to the collection.