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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)



Reviews and Comments

Chris Columbus returns to the director's chair for the second adaptation of J. K. Rowling's smash hit series of children's books. It's almost as good as the original film and better in some ways. The story of the second book is a slightly weaker story but a more cinematic one, so it more or less balances out. Again, the cast -- both returning characters and new -- are almost perfect. I was disappointed with Richard Harris' portrayal of Dumbledore this time -- when did this great actor take lessons in the William Shatner School of Pause Acting?? -- but Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart is simply wonderful. I should also mention Jason Isaacs, whose deliciously sinister Lucius Malfoy, who pushes the boundaries of camp and pulls it off.

As much as I liked this, I am again frustrated by Columbus' complete lack of understanding about how to film British humor. The humor in the book works because it's played straight. In the opening Dursleys sequence, watch how the camera and the timing of the dialogue punch up the best lines and paradoxically neutralize their impact.

This is the biggest fault I can pick with the movie. The central mystery is beautifully done. There is something exciting about watching excited children uncovering dark secrets buried in the past and stumbling across more than they bargained for. The spirit of old-time children's adventure stories is fused seamlessly in Rowling's original fantasy world with enchanting results.

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