a film by Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, John Cleese Directed by: Chris Columbus Produced by: David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe Written by: Steve Kloves Distributor: Warner Brothers.

Here's what kinda creeps me out about Harry Potter--he looks like Bill Gates. Come on, don't look at me like that. Think about it: he's this misunderstood kid who's destined for greatness. He's bespectacled, brilliant and.. .well, kind of a nerd. He's got a unique talent, and he's privvy to this arcane subject that, aside from the ministrations of a few old guys, seems to be largely the province of young people destined to change the world.

Here's what clinches it: Harry Potter is constantly breaking the rules. He shows up late. He rides his broom when he shouldn't. He goes into the haunted room with the three-headed dog when he knows he's not supposed to. He doesn't succumb to spells that should reduce him to fairy dust. He steals the sorcerer's stone.

He breaks the rules, and he always gets away with it. Hell, people love him for it.

It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it,. And I guess that's not fair to the movie. Okay, forget the whole Bill Gates thing. Forget I said anything. When you see the movie, just put the whole Bill Gates thing out of your mind. You will not see Bill Gates every time Harry Potter's on the screen. It was a stretch, let's face it, the Bill Gates comparison. No sense dwelling on it.

I've never run any of the Harry Potter software on my system, so I was wide open for the movie, with as few preconceptions as the far-reaching hand of media domination would allow. After all, the release of Harry Potter has been the most hyped event of the year, next to the release of Windows XP.

So what did Sullydog think?

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone is a beautiful movie, full of lovely images, fine performances, and a parade of wonders. And, ultimately, it's just a bit dull.

My understanding is that, like Fellowship, Harry Potter is fairly faithful to the book. And I can see how this story, on the printed page, would be engrossing and charming, the kind of book I'd love to curl up with beside the fire, night after night. And perhaps I will. But as a movie it comes off too slow and a bit aimless. The story told here is one that lacks urgency and danger until the film is two thirds over. For a presentation that runs in excess of two hours, that's just deadly.

Harry Potter stays on its feet by depicting one wonder after another, by involving us with agreeable characters, and finally by introducing some real menace. But it never really flies--it never builds up enough speed. And aside from the final plot twist--the resolution of the belated mystery that falls into Harry's lap--there are few suprises here. Some of the images will make us gasp, but the plot plods and the ideas are all too conventional. Harry Potter is nice to look at, technically state-of-the-art, but not exactly inspired.

Let me be clear. I liked Harry Potter, and I don't think that the movie is a waste of your time. It's a quality production and has much to commend it. But there's something missing from this cinematic window on the world of make-belive. Magic is missing. The ineffable It that makes some movies click when by all rights they shouldn't, or fails to ignite a film even though it seems to have everything going for it. Harry Potter fills the kettle with all the right ingredients--story, craftsmanship, performances--and the overall effect is charming and watchable. Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris and Alan Rickman are wonderful, and the children aren't too, too precious. The soundtrack is a meandering mess, but the production design is exquisite. Visually, the movie is stunning. All the essential elements are in play. But the magic never seems to take hold.

By all means, go see it. You could do a lot worse this year, believe me. But don't expect to be spellbound. And just forget what I said about the whole Bill Gates thing.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Millenium Edition.
Sullydog Approves.

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