Harry Potter has nothing to worry about. The lucrative Warner Brothers
franchise has brought forth, in the fourth installment of the series,
a splendid film that will delight both children and parents alike.
Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings And A Funeral)
and screenwriter Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys)
have concocted an intelligent brew of adolescent coming-of-age drama,
love and loyalty, terrifying horror and magical realism.
Garnering longer locks and more manly jowls, Harry and his best
friend Ron Weasley (and all the fellow wizards at Hogwarts) have
passed pre-pubescence and emerged in the midst of their first battles
with teenage angst. Harry gets a crush on a pretty young student,
and Ron begins to realize that he’s falling for Hermione.
The Goblet of Fire’s tone and trajectory are distinctly
opposite the third Potter film (The Prisoner of Azkaban),
which I found to be humorless, cruel, and ultimately, a real snore.
Here, the momentum doesn’t let up from the get-go. We’re
thrust into the “Tri-Wizard Competition,” a highly prestigious
wizard race, which pits 15-year-old Harry against three more mature
upperclassmen, all 17.
Adding to the fun, this Potter film benefits from more multiculturalism
and varying personality types than the previous three. French girls,
Romanian boys, and British students of Asian and Indian descent
abound. Loads of clever, witty dialogue and plot points will give
parents plenty to laugh at, while the kids’ bellies will roll
with the film’s punchy physical comedy. But this is also a
Potter darkened with plenty of fright-filled moments—it’s
rated PG-13, and with scary-good reason. Real death lurks in the
air at Hogwarts. A creepy Brendan Gleeson as Alastor
“Mad-Eye” Moody adds to the ominous atmosphere. But
it’s Harry’s bitter nemesis, the Prince of Darkness,
Lord Voldemort, who breathes death under a ghoulish mask of translucent
skin. The brilliant British actor Ralph Fiennes
(Schindler’s List, Red Dragon) will make the kids
squeal, their parents squirm. His terrifying reincarnation of J.K.
Rowling’s ultimate evil-doer is spot-on.
Beautifully photographed with an elegant school dance, a magical
underwater ballet, and an epic battle with a horn-tailed dragon,
this film boasts some of the sweetest, most impressive eye-candy
of the year. Indeed, the special effects are among the most visually
stunning this reviewer has ever seen.
Word is, the London critics are raving. As they should be. Amazingly,
this is the first Harry Potter directed by a Brit. More true to
its author’s intentions and its hero’s birthplace, let’s
hope the folks at Warner Brothers keep Harry at home and stick with
Newell. Because Goblet Of Fire is the best one yet.
—Tiffany Crouch Bartlett