When I heard that Christopher Columbus, director of Home
Alone, had been selected to direct Harry Potter, I admit that
I had visions of Macaulay Culkin mugging as Harry but I was wrong.
Harry Potter is one of the best translations from book to film that
I have ever seen. Of course, when you have a cast consisting of most
of the surviving old pros of English character acting, you can't go very
far wrong. The casting is pretty much perfect including Richard Harris
(Headmaster Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Alan Rickman
(Professor Snape), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Julie Walters, John Cleese
and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid). The casting of the children who are
the real stars of the movie is also excellent. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry),
Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) are all very good.
You have to look no further than Star
Wars: The Phantom Menace to see how poor casting of child actors can
drag down a film. I'm happy to say that unlike The
Phantom Menace, they didn't try to make Harry Potter too goody
goody. It retains just the right amount of the dark side. The
only bad choice made in Harry Potter is portraying the evil Voldemort as
a clone of Darth Vader. For anyone who has just recently returned
from Alpha Centauri, Harry Potter is the story of a young boy with
a zig-zag scar on his forehead, received when he survived an attack from
an evil wizard who killed his parents. Since that time, Harry has
been living Cinderella-like with his Aunt and Uncle. As we soon learn,
Harry is himself a wizard and is soon whisked off to Hogwarts School to
learn how to cast spells and fly broomsticks. As I already mentioned,
Daniel Radcliffe, besides bearing an uncanny resemblance to the cover art
of Harry Potter, does a great job playing him too. His fellow students
and partners in crime also do well particularly Emma Watson as Hermione.
Her strong presence keeps this film from being completely about boys.
But it is Robbie Coltrane, as soon as he appears hugely on the screen,
who steals the movie as Hagrid. The rest of the cast shine also,
particularly Alan Rickman as the seemingly slimy Snape and Maggie Smith
doing McGonagall as a riff off of The
Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The art direction is very well done
and the scenes are are a nice combination of real and computer generated
locales. In being true to the book, Columbus may have tried to include
too much material. The film runs two and a half hours although I
must say that the many children in the audience remained rapt throughout.
If you liked the book, you'll like the movie. You probably will like it
even if you didn't read the book.