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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – DVD Review

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone DVD cover art


Written by: Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris


  • Seven deleted scenes (good luck finding them)
  • Self-guided tour of Hogwarts
  • Production and art gallery
  • Interview featurette with Columbus, Kloves and producer David Heyman
  • Theatrical trailers
  • International clip
  • DVD-ROM features include a trading card game demo and voice recognition

Released by: Warner Home Video
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Rent It.

[ad#longpost]Harry Potter (Radcliffe) has not had an easy life. His parents were killed in an accident, or so he was told, and he went to live with his own surviving relatives, the Dursleys (Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw & Harry Melling), who are basically a clanful of utter pricks. However, now that he’s turned eleven years old, a strange giant named Hagrid (Coltrane) has arrived to give him his true legacy: he is a wizard, and he’s been invited to Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry. Along the way he’s going to make some friends, make some enemies, and have to face his greatest fears.

The best part of this two-disc set is the film itself. A faithful rendition of the book, it’s a charming film that relies heavily on the talent of its immense cast. The good news is that the cast is more than up for the job. And although the supporting cast of Hogwarts faculty is amazing (how could they not be with Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Harris amongst them?), the bulk of the film rests on the three relative unknowns cast as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Luckily the much-maligned length of time it took Columbus and company to find the three paid off.

Granted–and this sounds nuts–but a lot has changed since the film hit cinemas. We know that CGI is more advanced than we first gave it credit for. Compare the cave troll in Lord of the Rings to the troll here. Or the mimicked human movements. But hey, the film came out first, it’s a family film based on a children’s book…so some slack is due. We just hope they fix that stuff before the second film hits this holiday season.

But regardless, the film itself is a treat. I wish I could say the same for the DVD that’s been released. A few things first. We know that this is not the last time we’ll see Sorcerer’s Stone on DVD. It’s commonplace for a film to come out first relatively bare bones, and then come out later in the UberMongo Edition. Fine. It’s also not completely reasonable to get the commentary tracks that should be on the UberMongo version out now. For the record, there should be three, one for Columbus, Kloves and Rowling, one for the three stars, and one for the faculty actors–just for future reference. However, what little value the extras on this disc have, they’re almost destroyed by the way they’re presented.

Harry, Hermione and Ron screaming from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The second disc is where the fun supposedly is. The whole thing is setup like a game. You have to go into Diagon Alley, get a key, then get some money, then get a wand…and so forth and so on. Many will no doubt think, “Oh how nice, it’s like a game for kids.” Those people don’t know many modern children. Modern children are used to PC games, PS2 games, and the like. They’re used to impressive graphics, sound effects, characters–the whole nine. Trying to guess which bricks will let you in to Diagon Alley or just trying to press the button at the right time to catch a snitch is going to go over like a ton of those aforementioned bricks. Hell, catching the snitch is about as compelling as those ads on websites that say, “Bazooka the monkey and win $20.”

Chris Columbus, director of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

There are four bits of extras that are actually interesting. One is the “self-guided” tour of Hogwarts, which lets you examine the locales of the school grounds, including Gryffindor Hall and Hagrid’s hut. This is nice, but nowhere near as extensive as it should have been. And the way it was shot, optimized for iPix I assume, it’s way too blurry. Another is the interview section, which talks with Columbus, Kloves and producer David Heyman. Around fifteen minutes in length, it does give some behind-the-scenes type info. It also reveals some of the stuff one can expect to see in the second film, which is no surprise to anyone who’s read the second book. There’s also a place that lets you listen to a particular scene in several different languages–which is amusing if for no other reason to hear what “Fluffy” gets translated into.

Lastly, there are some production and design sketches in a gallery, but I couldn’t tell you where for the life of me. I was too busy wading through useless extras like screens of Bernie Bott’s Beans and montages of character bits from the film. Amazingly, one of the selling points of the disc, the deleted scenes, are an easter egg. So a normal pass through the disc, you wouldn’t find them.

Gringotts Exchange Rate from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone DVD

The DVD-ROM portion of the second disc looks good on paper, anyway. What’s nice is the ability to speak commands into your PC’s microphone in order to navigate the features. However, most of the features are simply there to sell you something (like getting on WB’s e-mail list or the collectible trading card game). And I quickly got frustrated by the fact that, on my system anyway, 1) the microphone would turn itself off for some sections and then never turn back on again and 2) going back to the “Great Hall” section would always end up a 404.

Basically, the shot is this: Harry Potter fanatics are going to want to buy the disc just to have the film. If you have kids, you probably have already ordered yours. But–if you don’t have kids and you just would like to have an edition of the film on DVD on your shelf…then this is not the version for you. The second disc’s navigation is downright tedious and uninteresting–I can’t imagine even kids would enjoy it. I’d say rent the thing or borrow it if you just need to get a fix of the movie before the second one comes out.

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