Written by: Steven Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith
My Advice: Don’t miss it.
To give a plot summary of this movie is almost pointless–everyone knows what’s going to happen because they’ve read the books. But for that one guy who hasn’t, Harry is back at school for the second year. Now there’s another threat in the works: someone has opened the legendary Chamber of Secrets, and there’s a monster roaming the school petrifying (yes, literally turning them to stone) “mudbloods”, i.e. witches and wizards who don’t come from magic families.
The good news is that Daniel Radcliffe is still able to channel Harry perfectly, and in fact grows a little with the role–especially since he doesn’t spend half the movie asking expository questions or being lectured at.
Gilderoy Lockhart is handled fairly well by Kenneth Branagh–though there isn’t enough of him. As a result, he looks like a total buffoon. Rupert Grint‘s character of Ron seems to have been demoted to frightened comic sidekick, rather than the timid but determined loyal ally who played the game of Wizard’s Chess last year. Emma Watson‘s Hermione is still dead-on, when the script lets her be.
Before I let myself sound like I’m criticizing three amazing child actors, let me be clear: most of the problems that are in this movie arise from nowhere else but the script, and these actors are doing the best they can. There are a few other minor problems, such as the fact that Mr. Weasley’s flying car comes across as the bastard child of Flubber and Herbie.
The bottom line is that the script tried very hard to stay true to the source material and in some cases paid the price. Even with much trimming of smaller storylines, this movie clocks in at a whopping 161 minutes, and in some cases I found myself checking my watch to see how far into the movie I was. My twelve-year-old stepdaughter was getting visibly restless. In other places the plot just skimmed past things, making it a little difficult for her to keep up.
Fortunately, the movie has plenty of thrilling moments, and when the storyline is moving, you’re totally engrossed in it. The formulaic moments and downtime reduce it to three and a half cups–but don’t be misled; this movie should be seen.