By Glenn Ferrara
After only two weeks, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone” has already brought in nearly $200 million — an astounding haul, especially considering it isn’t all that magical. Likable, but not lovable.
Director Christopher Columbus (“Home Alone”) wastes too much celluloid introducing a franchise when he should be telling a story. The result: it doesn’t completely work as a stand-alone film. Everything but the introductions, including the plot, is secondary, which may make devotees happy, but it will leave others hungry for some action. All of the acting is solid, even the kids. Robbie Coltrane (“Golden Eye”) as Hagrid and young Rupert Grint as Harry’s friend Ron, stand out, as does the often marvelous Alan Rickman (“Die Hard”). Daniel Radcliffe in the title role carries himself well, but like all the other actors, he is restrained by the painfully faithful adapting and visionless filmmaking.
It’s obvious that this is a sacred film. The producers apparently are overly concerned that any flavored slant on the material might turn off the built-in horde of fans and destroy a billion-dollar franchise for AOL-Time Warner. So director Christopher Columbus, happy to be associated with a sure-fire winner, gave Warner just what they wanted, a clean and adequate film that has its moments, but hardly ever amazes.
Had directors Terry Gilliam or Steven Spielberg (both at times rumored to have the helm) been in charge, the film would have been drastically different. Gilliam especially would have been perfect for this material, perfect for grownups that is. His peculiar vision may have thrown off or even frightened small children, it’s a shock that he was ever considered.
The film’s biggest problem is similar to that which another high profile first-chapter suffered from — over-confidence. Producers of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” and “Harry Potter,” knew at the outset that they were just the start of a franchise, so they felt no pressure to win an audience (“Episode 2: Attack of the Clones” is due this May, while “Harry Potter And the
Chamber of Secrets” began filming last week). Overly relaxed, both filmmakers took their time introducing their large casts of characters instead of working through a story. So what you get are two films that may work when grouped with the coming sequels, but disappoint as stand-alone projects.
I don’t’ want to be too hard on “Potter,” since it is a nice film. I’m interested in the sequel. It’s just frustrating when filmmakers don’t work as hard as they should. That’s my problem with Harry Potter — with a little more effort, it could have been much better.
Editor’s note: Qguide reviewers normally are left to their own opinions; however, in this case I had to interject. I saw “Harry Potter” with my 10-year-old (who is loving the books and made sure I understood the full story). I thought it was an exciting, magical film, which fired the imagination as much as the books apparently have.
But see it for yourself, with your kids.