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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Warner Bros. // PG // November 16, 2001
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Loren Halek | posted November 29, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Having read the first three books in the Harry Potter series (I'm still working on the fourth), I was really looking forward to this movie. I had some apprehension in the fact that Chris Columbus was directing the movie though. Columbus has not had the best track record in recent years with such movies as Bicentennial Man and Stepmom. He had a good run in the late 80s and early 90s, but he has fallen since then.

Needless to say, that apprehension was not needed in this case. While leaving some little touches from the book out of the movie and creating some allusions to the coming books/movies, it stays pretty faithful to the book and is pretty much the personification of the images in my head that I got from the book.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is about a boy named Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe) and his entrance into the wizard world where he is already a celebrity and doesn't even know it. Why doesn't he know it? Well, he's grown up most of his young life with his Muggle (non-magical) Uncle, Aunt and Cousin who all don't treat him very well. You see, Harry lives in a small compartment under the stairs and not a bedroom. Harry lives a pretty poor existance until a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft shows up via an owl.

His Uncle takes the letter away from him, but the owls keep coming with letters. At one point there are tons of letters that come through the chimney when Harry's Uncle blocks the mail slot in his door. They go to a secluded area, but the Hogwarts gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid (played by Robbie Coltrane, who does Hagrid great justice), shows up and takes Harry to Hogwarts. He also tells Harry that his parents were killed by the evil Wizard Voldemort and that they didn't die in a car crash like his relatives had said. His lighting strike-like scar on his head came from Voldemort when he unsuccessfully tried to kill Harry when he was a baby.

Our first showing of the wizard's world is in Diagon Alley. This is where Harry finds out his parents left him a lot of money and he gets his school supplies. The most interesting part is when he goes to the wand shop where John Hurt plays the curator of the shop. After going through a couple wands (and blowing stuff up), Hurt grabs a wand and gives it to Harry wondering if this special wand will work. When it does work Hurt lets Harry in on some information about his wand

Then it's off to Hogwarts via a train station that's actually located in the wall between platform 9 and 10 in the train station...platform 9 3/4 in fact. Once on the train we meet up with the other young main characters: red-headed Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and bookworm Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).

Once at Hogwarts we meet up with the staff and other students: Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith), potions Professor Snape (the always great Alan Rickman) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) as the antagonist student to Harry. All parts are done well and this is really a well acted movie. The added benefit of an all British cast just adds to this movie. Spielberg had originally wanted to do this movie, but he wanted Americans in the role. I just can't see that personally.

At Hogwarts, Harry has adventures with Ron and Hermione that involve things such as a troll and a three-headed dog aptly named Fluffy. Where does the Sorcerer's Stone come into all of this? Well, Hagrid picked it up in Diagon Alley and Fluffy is guarding it. Someone at Hogwarts wants it and Harry is getting searing pains from his scar. The rest of the movie involves Harry, Ron and Hermione tracking down who is trying to take the Sorcerer's Stone and why it's so important.

There were a few sections that really stood out to me in the movie. The first is the section where the Sorting Hat sorts out first-year students to one of four houses (or dormitories): Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Those four names are the people that started Hogwarts. The Sorting Hat itself is an excellent use of CGI and the voice is perfect for it.

The second section is the Quiddich match. Although very obvious that it is mostly CGI, the section works rather well. Quiddich is difficult to explain and I thought it would be very hard to pull off in the movie, but ILM did an excellent job of it.

Another section that was very interesting involves Harry, a mirror and a cloak. Seeing these parts on the screen after reading them in the book made me feel they accurately portrayed what I was seeing in my mind when I read the book.

Now the major question is if you haven't read the books will you like the movie? I took my wife and mother to see this movie and neither had read any of the books. The both loved the movie and totally understood everything that was going on. They both said they wanted to see it again just to see what they missed.

Final Thoughts: In the end, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a great movie. Although many parts were left out, the movie still runs 142 minutes. Not once did I look at my watch or feel bored in the movie. There are some parts they cut that I wish they would have kept in, but I can understand the need to keep the movie from being over 3 hours long. I still don't totally agree with Columbus as the director. To me he just doesn't have that special touch. With this movie he seems to have left a lot of it to Industrial Light and Magic, who are magicians themselves. A high-water mark has been set that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will have to meet or overcome. And for reference, the next book is a little better than this one.

I highly recommend going to see this movie. It doesn't matter if you're a child, adult or a person who has never read any of the books. This is an example of a highly hyped movie that delivers on it's hype. I cannot wait for the DVD release of this great movie.
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Highly Recommended

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