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Harry Mania

The movie version of the famous book won't disappoint

I don't like children's books. Sure I can still appreciate Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, but I can do without most of the rest. Harry Potter books, now more a worldwide cultural phenomena than a literary feat, are known to cross the border between children's and adult fiction. You can spot a middle-aged babyboomer, a 20 year-old college student and a third-grader who hasn't yet mastered the ability to stop drooling all reading the novels. The movie adaptation also crosses generation differences.

Book adaptations usually disappoint; they tend to dumb down the story, simplify the characters and leave huge gaps in plot in an effort to translate the novel onto the silver screen. In this case, the movie version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone stays true to the text and brings to life the magic of the world that author J.K. Rowling skillfully creates.

You'll be ooh-ing and aah-ing right along with the three-year olds. Directed by Chris Columbus, the movie immediately sets up a charming atmosphere of witches and wizards that, no matter how far-fetched, seems realistic and believable. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, who has an uncanny likeness to the fictional character) is a nerdy, plain seemingly regular bloke who lives with a quintessentially evil foster family (think Cinderella) in a "cupboard under the stairs" in Surry, UK. But there's a mysterious prophecy that surrounds his existence that propels the rest of the film.

Like every good fairy tale, the poor boy makes good. Harry is whisked off to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, shrouded in a netherworld, where he hooks up with his crew: Ron (Rupert Grint), a cockney redhead with a heart of gold and Hermione (Emma Watson), a snotty British fireball-in-training. Together they encounter adventures fit for Indiana Jones rather than a group of foppy eleven-year olds at a boarding school; however, it works.

The costumes and set design are top notch, particularly the scenes of Diagon Alley and the innards of the school. The most startling costumes were those of the goblin bankers, who make you shrink a little in your seat as they peer down at an awed Harry. It seems as if every little detail had been attended to with excruciating exactness, from the security systems to the mail owls to the broomsticks. This makes the movie as believable as it is and prompts appreciation for Rowling's sense of imagination (think of her kid who got to hear her weave her tales night after night).

In addition to the mystery and magic, there is a good deal of humor. The scene-stealer of the film was by far (at least for adults) Alan Rickman, who played the dark and sinister Professor Snape to a tee, eliciting giggles with his overwrought portrayal of a wizard specializing in potions. The game of Quidditch was exhilarating and infused the film with a very physical hyper-action sequence (BBC, not Hollywood) to balance out its much calmer, brain-oriented pacing.

Another issue in transforming books into films, particularly with sci-fi or fantasy novels, is that if you haven't read the book you'll be totally lost. There are some points that seem to be thrown around in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that aren't quite explained in the movie, such as the significance of the different houses that the children get divided into at Hogwarts and Harry's family history, that the book could shed some light on, but they are few enough not to impact your ability the grasp the intricacies of the story. Although kids under five may get nightmares after watching it, Harry Potter is truly a family film that every member could thoroughly enjoy


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Rated PG
2 hours 22 minutes

Daniel Radcliffe
Emma Watson
Rupert Grint
Richard Harris
John Cleese