Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Review by Diana
Director: Christopher Columbus
Rating: Super Star Destroyer!
There were some fears that Dobby the house elf, a computer graphic image (CGI), would be more annoying than JarJar Binks in The Phantom Menace. But remember that when George created JarJar, the hapless Gungan was also a showcase for ILM's capabilities. Dobbie is born from similar programming, but they got it right. Dobbie -- and all the special effects, for that matter -- were totally believable and could act, and were used judiciously. They interacted with the live characters well.
The new cast assignments were as great as those cast previously. Arthur Weasley was not like what any of us imagined, but he was perfect as he was. We knew that Gilderoy Lockhart was originally to be played by Hugh Grant, and he would have been good in this role. But Kenneth Branaugh, being less a megastar, blended in better, and was totally believable as the full-of-himself good-for-nothing PITA wizard. Moaning Myrtle was less ugly or fat than we had each imagined, but she was still totally annoying and great, and Tom Riddle was sufficiently sinister, yet so full of promise ... (hey, Hagrid is 66 years old!). The whomping willow was great; that scene was done perfectly! And speaking of perfect, how about Lucius Malfoy's hair?? There were also interesting nearly-familiar castings ... like Aragog's voice. It was so familiar, but none of us could place our fingers on it ... so we checked the cast list ... and Julian Glover had played General Veers in ESB! Remember him? He was in charge of the invading ground troops on Hoth. And he was the slimey millionaire backer, Walter Donovan, in The Last Crusade ...
Okay, we got our money's worth just checking out the cast!
According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, this depiction of Book 2 would be a "rollicking adventure" -- something to have fun with as it was the shortest of the four existing books. So why is it nearly 3 hours long?? And they still had to leave large chunks of stuff out, like Nick's Death Day party. Or the squicks. Or the roosters. Or de-gnoming the garden.
Wait, I didn't mean to be such a drag ... It IS a rollicking adventure! Though it's the shortest of J.K. Rowling's books thus far, it's important in establishing the evil genius that is Voldemort. Everyone is a year older; the trouble they get into is on a much larger scale. Magic is not so new to our young heros, and they are less uncomfortable with each other and their situations. Well, okay, they are also MORE uncomfortable with each other, too. Voices change, kids are taller, heroics are grander, and moments can be awkward. All good stuff!
We are introduced to The Burrow, the home of the Weasleys, and a place Harry envies. They are the type of family who put what little money they have toward education and caring for their seven children, not into a grand home or nice clothes. It's a ramshackle series of houses and shacks stacked one atop the other, the insides are filled with books, stuff, furniture, and none of it matches. The stairs are a hoot, connecting the different houses stacked up like that! I've always wanted to live in The Burrow. And how cool is the flying "Anglebox"??
(Isn't a basilisk a snake? Then how come the Encarta Encyclopedia lists it as a sort of iguana?? Uh oh ... you know what problems this brings up in the story, don't you? But the basilisk, for those of you who don't like looking it up, is a lengendary snake hatched from a chicken egg, incubated and cared for by a serpent. It's other name is "cockatrice." Thank you, Hermione.)
The younger among our movie-fest group were somewhat disappointed that so much was modified or cut from the book. But the cuts were generally transparent and the modifications appropriate. If this is the shortest book, with the least conflict and complexity, yet it is 2 hours and 41 minutes long ... we're already wondering if Prisoner of Azkaban or The Goblet of Fire could possibly be done as single movies. And then there is the fear that the remaining movies might not be made? (This was all stuff we talked over after -- we hadn't heard that rumor anywhere.) We enjoyed the movie so much that we were fearful that the remainder wouldn't be made! I guess we are suffering somewhat from the George Lucas thing, where he made a trilogy then didn't make the remaining movies as he'd promised ...
It was a great movie, and we all enjoyed it thoroughly ... Admittedly though, the pall of Richard Harris's untimely and recent death was hard to dispell. We left wishing for the next movie to be made mooey mooey rapido, before the kids grow up too much or more cast members die ... just like we are champing at the bit for the next book in the series! Go Joanne!
In case you're interested, here's the full cast list I lifted from imdb.com, the Internet Movie Database:
Daniel Radcliffe ... Harry James Potter Emma Watson ... Hermione Granger Rupert Grint ... Ron Weasley Richard Harris ... Headmaster Albus Dumbledore Maggie Smith ... Professor Minerva McGonagall Kenneth Branagh ... Gilderoy Lockhart Robbie Coltrane ... Groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid Alan Rickman ... Professor Severus Snape Warwick Davis ... Professor Filius Flitwick Sean Biggerstaff ... Oliver Wood Shirley Henderson ... Moaning Myrtle Miriam Margolyes ... Professor Sprout Alfred Burke ... Headmaster Armando Dippet Sally Mortemore ... Madam Irma Pince Robert Hardy ... Cornelius Fudge Toby Jones ... Dobby the House Elf David Bradley ... Caretaker Argus Filch Christian Coulson ... Tom Marvolo Riddle Tom Felton ... Draco Malfoy Jason Isaacs ... Lucius Malfoy Leslie Phillips ... The Sorting Hat Mark Williams ... Arthur Weasley Julie Walters ... Molly Weasley John Cleese ... Nearly Headless Nick Richard Griffiths ... Uncle Vernon Dursley Fiona Shaw ... Aunt Petunia Dursley Bonnie Wright ... Ginny Weasley Harry Melling ... Dudley Dursley Oliver Phelps ... George Weasley James Phelps ... Fred Weasley Helen Stuart ... Millicent Bulstrode Gemma Padley ... Penelope Clearwater Jamie Yeates ... Slytherin Keeper Bletchley Jamie Waylett ... Vincent Crabbe Matthew Lewis ... Neville Longbottom Chris Rankin ... Percy Weasley Edward Randell ... Justin Finch-Fletchley Devon Murray ... Seamus Finnigan Hugh Mitchell ... Colin Creevey Joshua Herdman ... Gregory Goyle Alfred Enoch ... Dean Thomas Julian Glover ... Aragog Simon Fisher-Becker ... The Fat Friar Terence Bayler ... The Bloody Baron Edward Tudor-Pole ... Mr. Borgin Emily Dale ... Katie Bell Gemma Jones ... Madam Poppy Pomfrey Danielle Taylor ... Angelina Johnson Leilah Sutherland ... Alicia Spinnet David Holmes ... Adrian Pucey Elizabeth Spriggs ... The Fat Lady Scott Fern ... Marcus Flint Rik Mayall ... Peeves the Poltergeist