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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)

(aka: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)



Reviews and Comments

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is a surprising fun set of adventure mysteries, and while cynics might dispute it, its popularity is a blessing. When was the last time a book, instead of a movie or a video game, was the fad of choice among kids?

It was an inevitable that a movie would be made of this, but what were the chances that it would be a good one? I had no respect whatsoever for its director, Chris Columbus, whose filmography consists of a relentless parade of soppy, overwrought tedium. But to look at this, one of two things must be the case: either he has as much admiration and respect for Rowling's story as do its many fans, or he was smart enough to get out of the way of his excellent cast and crew.

It's remarkable how much the images on the screen look like how they are imagined when one reads Rowling's novel. Nothing seen can compare with the glory and wonder of the images that one's imagination can conjure for itself, but this is a rare film that inspires and stimulates the imagination rather than shackling it.

However, I don't think it's a particularly good idea to see this movie without having read the book. The movie was made for the book's fans, not to initiate those unfamiliar with it. I fear that many will see the movie without having read the book and, even if they find it great fun, say to themselves, "That's what it's all about?" Well, no, it isn't. Part of what makes the book so entertaining is the delightful turns of phrase, the understated British humor, and the wonderful way in which Rowling infuses her school for wizardry with the familiar rigamarole of academia that so vexes young students.

So my advice? Read the book, then see the movie. Both are great entertainments, but getting the most out of the movie may depend on what you bring with you to it.

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