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"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"

Directed by Mike Newell.
Written by Steven Kloves.  Based on the book by J.K. Rowling.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Michael Gambon.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  11/27/05


Some things never change...and in the case of these Harry Potter flicks, I STILL have not read the books.  That has not been a problem for the most part through the first three films; in the newest edition, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", I'm officially lost, not because I couldn't follow what was happening on screen but because I am positive that this movie has maybe a third, maybe a fourth, of what actually happens in the book.

And if the essence is in the details, the movie version of "Fire" is the Cliff's Notes of the book, because for stretches of this movie, we get the events of what's happening only when Mr. Potter (again played by Daniel Radcliffe) is around.  Back at Hogwarts as 14-year-olds-going-on-18-year-olds, Harry and his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have school to think about in-between the Triwizards Tournament, which tests the mettle of three near-adults in contests that will help them achieve some sort of life-changing near-immortality.  Although the contest is supposed to take only three contestants--all of whom have to be older than 17--and this magical Goblet of Fire is supposed to only spit out three names of kids from the three schools that are competing (host Hogwarts, some school in Bulgaria and a school of French women), the Goblet spits out four names and one of those names is muthafuckin' Harry Potter.  Wouldn't you know it???

So, the four kids (remember, it's the "Triwizard Tournament") compete through contests and whoever wins...well, you'll see.  Along the way, we need to sort out how the Goblet had a technical glitch, where this Voldemort character is, why our three stars look so much older than 14 and who's going to have to die in this edition, the first one rated PG-13.

I am on the fence with this one, although I initially must give incredible kudos to Steven Kloves, who has written all four of the Potter films and has clearly condensed a ton of material into one 150-minute film.  I don't know how he goes through these books and pulls out the essential bits needed to make an interesting story come together; I also can't imagine the pressure the man is under to produce results with the legion of Potter fans breathing down his neck.

That said, the movie version of "Fire" leaves out so much that I constantly found myself scrambling to get back to what I had missed.  Are the kids even in school this year?  The movie shows us literally one classroom scene, where Harry's new Dark Arts teacher, "Madeye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson), shows the kids some of the more deadly spells in their repertoire.  Otherwise, it looks like fuckin' summer camp to me.  There's a dance, there's quidditch, there's this anyone actually in school?  Then we have the three contestants in the tournament besides Potter; as we never get to know these people (at least, not in the movie), it's almost like Kloves just assumes we have read the books, as if to say "It's not important that you know anything about the hot French girl; she's not going to win the tournament anyway."  In fact, I wanted to know more about at least the initial motivations that these people have to enter what turns out to be a dangerous attempt to win glory.  Shit, there's so little time in the movie to show us all three of the in-tournament contests that we only get to see Potter compete in the dragon-dodging, golden egg retrieval, which was by far the most exciting of those sequences.  You need some reason to care about the other contestants as they risk their life to grab the Cup; when fatality strikes late in this film, I was the only one dry-eyed, mostly because it was hard to get caught up in losing someone I didn't know or care about.

I could go on for hours about the missing footage; Harry likes this pretty Asian woman in his school, but she is marginalized for the main quest; I don't think he even utters her name, does he?  (Maybe once, as he yells after her to ask her to the Triwizard Ball.)  Does Harry like women now?  Does he have any interest in Hermione?  Does he even have time with an evil wizard breathing down his neck?  The cast is once again excellent, but they are also once again all meant to have not more than one or two scenes of dialogue; how do Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) and Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) only get a combined two minutes of this film?  Have we not had time over the last four films to have any scenes featuring Harry's parents in flashback?  (I'm not remembering any off the top.)  And even after we learn how the Goblet spit out an additional name, I'm not really getting why it would have spit out Harry's name even if someone, you know, sabotaged the operation.

As much as I felt was missing from this story, "Fire" is fairly entertaining.  The script has some great laughs (many due to the familiar awkwardness of being in a 14-year-old's shoes) and the special effects once again are amazing.  The tournament itself was fun for me, mostly because of how ridiculous the idea is that sane people (even in a fantasy world) would throw a 14-year-old to the wolves--in this case, the dragons--and watch him nearly die three times over the course of the year.  When the film is nearly over and Dumbledore (again played by Michael Gambon) utters the phrase "I'm sorry that I put you in such a difficult position" (I paraphrase), I was howling.  I'm sitting there thinking "Hey, bro, sorry for almost getting you burnt to a crisp by that dragon--and my bad for letting it break free from that chain--and, oh, sorry for almost having you get eaten by those evil mermen and...damn, MY BAD for having you almost get eaten by a 40-acre outdoor labyrinth.   Did I mention sorry for having to have you beat down a dead wizard that is the most dangerous evil spirit in the world?"

The Potter films maintain a certain level of quality thanks to its extravagant world, but clearly I'm going to get lost soon if I don't read the books.  Think that's gonna happen?

Rating:  Matinee


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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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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