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Harry Potter And
The Chamber Of Secrets (PG13)

Warner Bros.
Official Site
Director: Chris Columbus
Producer: David Heyman
Written by: Steven Kloves; from the novel by J.K. Rowling
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Kenneth Branagh, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis

Rating: out of 5

Harry Potter has a guaranteed audience in its legions of young fans, and their unfortunate parents who will have to sit through the movie also. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets suffers from all the flaws of its predecessor. It is too long, unfocused, and the end is excessively cheeseball even for a children’s film.

It all begins innocently enough with Harry living with his muggle parents during the school break when suddenly a CGI elf appears and warns Harry that a return to Hogwarts could be very hazardous to his health. Living with his muggle parents is agony so Harry returns for another year of adventure with the old gang of Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid. He also meets the sinister Lucius Malfoy, father to his blonde schoolyard rival, and Gilderoy Lockhart, (Branagh) the new defense against the dark arts teacher. The usual spell-crafting classes and quidditch matches round out the curriculum for his sophomore year. As much as can be understood is that the evil lord Voldemort is still trying to return from the grave and this time he plans to open the aforementioned chamber of secrets and release a deadly monster upon the school. Of course it is up to Harry Potter to save the day.

The movie would have done well to follow this simple story, but it takes far too long to get there. The film is weighted down by so many unnecessary scenes and characters that by the time it’s over one can easily think of 30 minutes that could have been left on the editing table without any loss to the film’s integrity. On the other hand Malfoy and Voldemort could have used more screen time. How are they connected? What’s their agenda? Why is it so important that they be stopped? The movie offers only vague answers. They are connected by evil, for the cause of doing evil, and they must be stopped because they are evil. This paints a blurry picture that could have used more development, because after all a hero is only as strong as his antagonist.

Most of the attempts to create suspense during the action sequences fail with the exception of any scene involving flying brooms or cars. Harry’s showdowns with various monsters or schoolyard foes simply fail to command interest. The monsters look fake for a movie with such a large budget and the motivations for the conflict aren’t well enough explained for anyone to care about the resolution. In this situation a sufficiently charismatic lead actor would have been able to engage the audience, but young Mr. Radcliffe was chosen more for his mere physical resemblance to Harry Potter than for any acting talent. The presences of Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, and Alan Rickman add a touch of maturity to this juvenile affair. Kenneth Branagh adds a few chuckles as he mugs for the camera, but he is a total throwaway character. The brains of the operation, Hermione, suffers a minor tragedy, leaving Harry and Ron to continue the fight. Without her these two jokers can’t seem to find their wands with both hands, leaving the fate of the school very much in doubt. The final error is the overly-drawn-out, super-happy ending. While the music gets happier and happier, the audience gets more and more fed up with this movie’s stubborn refusal to end. After the climactic fight there’s another 15 minutes of pure sugary happiness to go, ending the movie on a sour note.

—Woodrow Bogucki


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