Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Faithfully brings a fun book to life
Cons: Some scenes may be too scary for young kids
The Bottom Line:
It's hard to picture
Better book adaptation
Harry fans will love

"The Chamber has Been Opened."

All that is keeping Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) going through the summer is the thought of returning to school. Yes, this does make sense once you realize that his relatives are treating him poorly. And now that he knows he's a wizard, Hogwarts, his school, is the only place he feels at home.

But he almost doesn't make it back. First an elf appears and warns him to stay away. Then the entrance to the train platform is sealed to him. Only thanks to his friend Ron (Rupert Grint) does he make it back to the secret school for wizards.

Despite almost being expelled for using a flying car to get back, things start off reasonably well. There's a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. All the girls, including Hermione (Emma Watson), have a huge crush on him. He's an egotistical bore, but he's loads better then last year's teacher. On the down side, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has bought his way onto the Slytherin Quidditch team.

Things turn serious not too long into the year, however. Harry keeps hearing voices in the walls that no one else can hear. And then there is the warning written on the wall in blood. What is the chamber of secrets? Why can only Harry hear the voices? Are the students safe?

As with the first movie, this one brings Harry's world to life beautifully. And once again, the movie sticks very closely to the book. Since I liked this book better then the first one, I like this movie better, too. Yes, there were things left out for the sake of time that made the book richer, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better book to screen translation.

The cast from the first movie returns and once again does a great job bringing their characters to life. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. It's a comic relief role, and he's a riot in it. Unfortunately, this is Richard Harris' last performance as Headmaster Dumbledore. I loved his grandfatherly take on the character. He was perfect for the part.

Over the course of this movie, Harry faces a family of giant spiders and a giant serpent. These scenes are a little scary and could frighten small children. If your kids scare easily, you might want to view the film first. On the other hand, the little ones will probably enjoy the scenes involving barfing slugs better then I did.

The movie is loaded with special effects. For the most part, things come across extremely well. The spiders are menacing and the flying during the Quidditch scene is incredible. About the only weak part is Dobby, the house elf who shows up several times to give Harry dire warnings. He is a little too obviously computer animated. But it only detracts a little from the fun of the film.

Fans of the books will be delighted with this film. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets perfectly captures the book on which it is based.

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