Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets


Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

One might imagine that because Chris Columbus pulled off a faithful, yet exciting, movie adaptation of the first Harry Potter adventure that he would be able to it a second time. I'm sorry to report that he definitely has not.

There are so many things wrong with this film and almost nothing to recommend it. More than two-and-a-half hours are spent rolling around in pure tedium - only the REALLY easily pleased will be entertained. The story has a slightly harder tone than the first, but there is nothing on display that will discomfort anyone of any age.

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Harry is being mentally tortured and starved by his muggle family during the summer holidays. He longs to go back to Hogwarts, but a Jar-Jar Binks lookalike elf, called Dobby, turns up in his bedroom and warns him that terrible things await him there. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other for Harry, as the Dursleys can be just as evil as anything the chamber of secrets has to offer.

Once Harry gets to school - by means of a flying Ford Anglia - his fellow pupils are frozen with fear at the slightest glimpse of something evil. Harry hears voices in the walls that no one else can. And he suffers from the incompetence of the new Defence Against The Black Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh, totally miscast), who is not as funny as in the book.

Five minutes after we are re-introduced to the students and teachers, the film slips into a clumsy mishmash of poorly staged scenes and bad acting. First time around it was easy to turn a blind eye to the amateurism of these kids. But there's no excusing it now. They've had a year to study their performances and see what was right and wrong - I know, I know, they're only kids. Trust me, none of them will be thanking the Academy anytime soon, which makes most of their scenes difficult to watch. Even with the support of such talent as Richard Harris, Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith - Robbie Coltrane is seriously underused - they cannot handle the weight of the material. Their acting seems a few seconds behind the adults and any scene with them together has big contrasts between veteran and novice.

Steven Kloves' screenplay tears out many pages and cuts so many corners from J.K. Rowling's book - once again, Rik Mayall is completely left out - in order to keep a tight pace. Yet the film still manages to be dull and boring. Nothing REALLY happens. And there are far too many pauses and silences in dialogue scenes - an absolute crime in a film of this length. With the exception of the chamber of secrets - which holds precious few secrets, I might add - no part of Hogwarts is explored. Almost the entire movie is shot in a generic corridor and you can bet your bottom dollar that for the other locations Columbus just shot the same set from a different angle. The lighting is conveniently yellow-candlelit, when he wants it to be mysterious, or comfortable, and green, or blue, when it should be menacing.

Some credit should be given to the director for trying to make it a little bit darker than before. There's nothing visually disturbing, but the sight of a petrified Hermione and the angles he uses for the film's many and lengthy dialogue scenes echo film noir rather than tame, family friendly blockbuster.

Aside from one quidditch match and the final showdown, there is nothing of interest. The mystery is very weak and straight-forward. There is too much talk and not enough action. It doesn't bode well for the rest of the series.

All the best elements that made the original entertaining are not here. Hagrid has less than five minutes screen time and Columbus exploits our disappointment by giving him a big applause at the end. This did not happen in the book and he only does it because that's his style, to force the audience to cry (Home Alone, Bicentennial Man).

I can assure you that this time, I wasn't sobbing like a little girl.

Reviewed on: 12 Nov 2002
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Harry enters the second year at Hogwarts... and it's even more perilous than the first.
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