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"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

Directed by Chris Columbus.
Written by Steven Kloves.  Based on the book by J.K. Rowling. 
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  11/20/01 

Folks-- 

$90 million?  That is what "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" made in just three days this past weekend.  That's about 25% higher than the previous record holder for highest three-day gross in history.

Is this film as good as the box office take?  No.  But, it is still pretty entertaining, if anything because of its amazing special effects.

DISCLAIMER:  I HAVE NOT READ ANY OF THE BOOKS!

So, this kid named Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has some magical powers.  His parents dead, three mysterious people drop orphan Harry off at his aunt's place and hope that one day he will turn out to be the greatest damned wizard who walked the earth.  At age 11, those mysterious people that showed up at the beginning of the film find him and enlist him at the Hogwarts School of Wizards (or something like that...what is important is that he goes to Wizard School).  While there, he is trained in how to best use his magical powers and find this stone that apparently allows the owner to heal all wounds, live forever, make the perfect $5 milkshake and erase all credit card debt worldwide.  (Typical literary Holy Grail.)

There was a lot to pick up on at first, but I did my best and managed to figure out who the heck all of these people (muggle, and non-muggle) really are.  But, I looked past all of that since I figured that I was being set up for seeing these folks in three or four more movies, so I concentrated on the task at hand...a little bit of mystery, and a whole hell of a lot of special effects.

DISCLAIMER:  I HAVE NOT READ ANY OF THE BOOKS!

In fact, I love watching high-profile special effects movies because I know that the pursestrings were non-existent when director Chris Columbus ("Home Alone") asked for more money.  Man, this production is lavish.  I was telling my friend Tena, who saw the flick with me tonight, that just the end sequences alone (all of the scenes that take place once Harry & Co. fall through the trap door on The Third Floor of the Hogwarts School) will be more expensive than the budget on the first real film that I direct one day...the chessboard sequence has got to be a $10 million shot alone.  Crazy!  So, flying keys, talking monsters, Harry's invisible cloak, blah blah blah are all too extravagant for words.  And, the Pod Race ripoff from "Star Wars, Episode I" in this movie is cash-money here, even if it feels familiar (this is the pseudo-soccer game that is played in the completely computer-animated arena mid-film).

And, the acting support from thesps Alan Rickman (still great after the "Die Hard" days), Ian McKellan and Robbie Coltrane is very good, and Radcliffe makes a great young wizard.  But, you get to watch too much acting in this film, because the film clocks in at 140 minutes.  This is too long for this film, and when Tena and I left the 10:45 showing tonight, there were more than a few people stretching and yawning as they left the theater.  You really feel the length early on the most, when you are trying to meet all of these characters.

DISCLAIMER:  I HAVE NOT READ ANY OF THE BOOKS!

As one of the 12 people in America who has not read the books, there were a few characters that didn't have much to do or say but felt "important", which probably means that I missed out on seeing those characters on-screen.  Most notably, all of the ghosts at Hogwarts (including a cameo by John Cleese as an almost-headless ghost) made zero sense to me.  These ghosts are just flying around the dining hall, and everyone seems to be cool about that.  Great, but who the hell are they?  Maybe it wasn't important, but it would have been nice to know.  Tena assured me afterwards that the movie stayed very true to the book, so I took her word for it and threw it here into the review.

Other notes:

  • Is this thing meant for kids?  There were some pretty intense moments in this one, and having Cleese play around with his head falling off was a bit over-the-top, especially since his character only has two scenes.

  • "Episode II" preview:  I think that Lucasfilm went from teaser (30-second glimpse of scenes from the film set to music) to trailer (two minutes of partial scenes, dialogue, and fight sequences) too fast!  I just saw the teaser two weeks ago!  Now, George Lucas is showing you all the goods.  By the time this movie comes out in May, I will have seen half of the film in theaters.  Of course, don't get me wrong:  seeing Boba Fett fire a pistol or fly around with his jet pack is bacon on-screen, ya heard!!  I am the *second* biggest Fett fan on Earth; the first?  Chuck "Ferrigno" Longer, who has an autographed copy of a picture of Boba Fett (played by Jeremy Bulloch).  Guy is friggin' hardcore.

Rating:  $8.25 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

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 bad...man, 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/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09