Review: ‘Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets’

Hey, look! The overseas titles match the States’ title this time!

It’s Harry Potter’s birthday again and school will be starting soon… wizard’s school, that is. But for the duration of the summer, Harry has not received even one letter from any of his new friends at Hogwart’s. Just as Harry is becoming convinced that his new (and preferred) life has forgotten him, a visitor arrives: a ‘house elf’ named Dobby. Looking pathetic, he warns Harry Potter not to return to Hogwart’s or else something terrible will happen. Then again, it WAS Dobby who stole all the summer’s letters to make Harry think his friends had abandoned him…

Harry Potter returns for his second year at Hogwarts. There’s a new teacher for protection against the dark arts (after what Harry did to the LAST one), new enemies to avoid, and, of course, another mystery roaming the halls of the thousand-year old school of magic. Like “The Sorcerer’s Stone” (or “The Philosopher’s Stone” in Europe), there’s a lot of story to tell and very little time to waste in telling it.

e same director (Chris Columbus) at the helm and the same cast and crew in place, it seems like we never left Hogwart’s. Unfortunately, this comes at a price: since everything at the school is magical, it seems less enchanting than it did. It’s become familiar, and eventually there may come a time when audiences may say “Well, they did THIS last time, so why couldn’t they do that here instead?” Still, the script is tight enough and moves along with such blazing speed that it suffers from the only failing grace of the original did: can audience members who haven’t read the books keep up? Familiar as it is, it’s as comfortable to the viewers as it is to Harry himself.

The original cast did as well as they did the first time, and it will unfortunately be Richard Harris’ last role as he passed away shortly before the film’s release (Ian McKellen has already been tapped to take up the role of Dumbledore). Tom Felton playing Draco Malfoy seems to have grown up a little faster than everyone else, and little ladies looking for someone to replace their aging boy band members won’t need to look much farther. New additions include a trimmed-down yet dead-on performance by Kenneth Branagh as the narcissistic Gilderoy Lockhart, and Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy manages to out-slime Alan Rickman’s character of Snape.

As the characters in the now-famous books by J.K. Rowling grow older, so does the storyline, and younger children may be frightened to see their imagination brought to life as the film’s main monster takes the screen, easily the film’s best and worthwhile special effect. That’s great news for the adults, bad news for the kiddies. Fortunately, the next installment of Harry Potter won’t be for a while, so the kids will have time to catch up, not to mention savor the anticipation of the upcoming third film.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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