As though "Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets" could
benefit from any more publicity given that the entire first weekend
is sold out in virtually every Manhattan theater, there is this item
from CompuServe's news outleton opening day..."In the
headquarters of the Oneness Pentecostal Church, the Rev.
Douglas Taylor sees the hand of the devil in the appeal of the
Harry Potter books and films. A public book-cutting took place at
which Taylor and the other pastors tore a copy of the J.K. Rowling
book on which the film is based, before a clapping audience of
100 people at a local hotel in Lewiston, Maine. 'To Taylor, the film
is nothing more than an instructional manual for the dark arts that
can ensnare children in a destructive obsession with the occult.
Satan is the inspiration for the Potter series."
Did anyone doubt that Satan could attract a wider audience
than his principal opponent?
What about this second episode of the series, directed once
again by Chris Columbus with the same principal players? The
movie embraces perhaps the most mature blending of human
beings with animation since the technology was introduced a
dozen years ago in Robert Zemeckis's "Who Framed Roger
Rabbit?" What's more Daniel Radcliffe probably has more appeal
to Potter's targeted audience than the then forty-six year old Bob
Hoskins. This "Potter" is all about costumes and the richest
production values of any movie so far this year, but has a plot that
only a ten-year-old could understand.
So I abducted my neighbor's ten-year-old, Stacey, for a half
hour and she explained the story like this...
The title character returns to his school of wizards, Hogwarts,
but to escape from his folks he needs more than the skill of a
woman about to climb down a ladder to elope with her lover.
Together with an annoying elf named Dobby who speaks regularly
in the third person and who could be called self-deprecating
except for the fact that he has nothing worth deprecating, Harry
takes off in a flying car, fails to catch the 11 o'clock train to the
school, and must settle, alas, for a flying car which unfortunately
does not have any personnel checking for box cutters. Even
stranger things are happening inside Hogwarts than occur daily at
New York public high schools. Someone has opened the scary
chamber of secrets, so like a combination of the Hardy Boys and
Nancy Drew, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), his best friend Ron Weasley
(Rupert Grint), and the cutesy Hermione Granger (Emma Watson)
are determined to get to the bottom of the conundrum.
Using road-and-buddy movie premises, the trio find themselves
immersed in a series of adventures, one scarier than the other,
climaxing in a battle between the threesome and some nasty
spiders, a struggle with a serpent that could turn some audience
members into ophidiophobics, and an ultimate confrontation with
the evil Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson).
This offers Kenneth Branagh his most humorous role as the
great British thesp performs in the role of the terminally
narcissistic Gilderoy Lockhart, perpetually falling in love with
himself while Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy projects evil before
he opens his mouth or gives voice to his design. With a
considerable number of violent scenes, there is nothing romantic
about this episode (perhaps to maintain a PG rating), but Nick
Dudman stands out for his construction of creatures and
particularly Stuart Craig whose sets take us out of the daily
humdrum of kirsche, kuche and kinder into a world of wizardly
with a Disneyesque chateau and a series of mazes for which a
search for exits would stump even Mighty Mouse.
Copyright © 2002 Harvey Karten