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"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"

Directed by Chris Columbus.
Written by Steven Kloves.  Based on the book by J.K. Rowling.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Kenneth Branagh.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  11/17/02 


Another year, another Harry Potter film...and, I still haven’t read any of the books.  I am sure that they would be a good read, it’s just that I don’t read books.  Seriously, I read one, maybe two novels a year and I only read on airplanes.  Now that I am riding five-hour flights every time I get on an airplane, I should have the time...but, it’s just hard to convince myself to buy a book that looks like it is for kids.

The second Harry Potter film, though, is clearly a more adult venture—“Chamber of Secrets” is a decidedly more dark film, in both its look and its ideas.  This time around, Harry goes back to the Hogwarts School for his second year and the school is facing a major dilemma—students are being petrified!  Apparently, there is some kind of monster hanging out in the building, and it is probably hanging out in the Chamber of Secrets, some mystical area of the school where somebody stowed a huge monster like a thousand years ago and now it is pissed off.

Hey, whatever—it was clear to me from the get-go that I wasn’t going to be able to follow all of the little things that go into the story because this movie is for fans, and it might happen to appeal to the average moviegoer.  I went to see this film with my buddy Chip, and he was saying afterwards that “Chamber of Secrets” adheres pretty closely to the text of the second book, even more so than the first film.  This is all important because this time around, director Chris Columbus doesn’t even take time to explain the Hogwarts school, that soccer/hockey/tag game that Harry is playing periodically (I believe this is called Quidditch), the invisibility cloak or any of the things that were established in the first film and the books.

The actors from the first film are almost all back—Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Emma Watson (as Hermione), Rupert Grint (Ron, who will teach classes called “How to Act Scared” one day), and Daniel Radcliffe as Harry.  (Although, by my count, Radcliffe’s character is mockingly referred to as just Potter five times as much as being called by his first name.  Literally everyone in the movie except his two kid friends look at him and just say “Heh...Potter” or “It’s you, Potter” or “Well well well...Potter!”  Never in the history of film has a child been so hated by other characters that he is referred to by his *last* name.)  All of the performers are good this time around, and the addition of Kenneth Branagh as star guest professor Gilderoy Lockehart is genius.  His comic relief is welcomed in a series that was without good humor the last go-round.  Radcliffe, responsible for carrying more of this film than the last one, is clearly more comfortable with the role and I can now envision him having a nice career once his Harry Potter days are over.

“Chamber of Secrets” has a better narrative than the last film, some great special effects, and a great cast.  Overall, I enjoyed this one a lot more than the last film.  But, it has its problems—the biggest one being its length.  At 161 minutes, this film is simply too long for a kids’ film.  Chip and I got to the theater Saturday at 1, bought tickets for the 2:10 because the 1:20 was sold out, then sat through ALMOST 20 FUCKING MINUTES of previews (by far, the longest set I have sat through all year, which is saying something) before getting out of a movie that ended just after 5 PM!!  Besides the length, I just had a lot of questions about the Harry Potter universe:  weren’t there a total of four guilds in the last film, not the two in this film?  There are hundreds of kids at the Hogwarts School, but it seems like everything runs through Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco (Tom Felton, the blond-haired kid).  I was intrigued to learn about any of the other kids at the school, but not at the expense of having to sit through an even longer film.  And, the ending of this film confirmed for me that this film should have been PG-13, not PG.

But, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is a worthy sequel—it improves on almost every aspect of the first film.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09