Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Dir: Chris Columbus
Star: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris
Cert / Year: PG / 2001
Format: DVD R2

Ok so it seems that half the planet has read the book, but for those who haven't (and I actually recommend that you do) here is the plot. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young boy who lives with his Uncle Dursley's family since the death of his parents. Through no fault of his own his Aunt, Uncle and cousin all hate him, and they treat as a slave. This all changes on his eleventh birthday when despite his Uncle's efforts he receives an invitation to join Hogworts school for wizards. Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) the gamekeeper of Hogworts arrives to explain that Harry is in fact a wizard. Glad to be free of the Dursleys Harry goes to Hogwarts making friends with Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) on the way. The school is filled with magic and ghosts but somewhere there is a secret, and dark forces are gathering that want to steal the secret and threaten Harry Potters life.

Normally I don't like to read the book of film before watching it, as I tend to find that it becomes difficult to remain objective about the film. In this case I have made an exception mainly because so many people will have already read the book, and like it or not this film will be compared to the book. The Harry Potter books themselves are excellent, and any film is going to have to be pretty good to live upto the expectations of the readers. I am glad to say that the film very nearly does. It really captures the essence of the book. All of the characters and locations look and feel just right, this is as close as you can get.

Ok so its like the book but as a film is it any good? Well a resounding yes. While the Harry Potter books are viewed as a children's books this is doing them a disservice. They are intelligently plotted and contain some brilliantly well rounded characters. This has been accurately translated into the script, giving us a top quality fantasy film for the whole family to enjoy. A lot of the dialogue comes straight from the books and very few changes to the story have been made. This has meant that the film has one of the best plots seen on screen this year.

So the story the look and the script are great what about the cast. I am not a fan of child actors it is rare to fine one that can really act rather than just appear to be acting. I am happy to say that Rupert Grint as Ron and Emma Watson as Hermione are both first class actors. Special credit has to go the Rupert as his performance is superb, he literally steals every scene he is in. Which brings me to Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry Potter. While there is no doubt that Daniel looks like Harry Potter the sad fact is that he is not much of an actor. He moves from nondescript to in places bad. This one of the films biggest weaknesses. The hero just doesn't command the screen, often out acted by all of those around him. In the end this does go some way in decreasing the films impact.

Thank heavens then for the fantastic supporting cast, which reads like a who's who of British acting. Robbie Coltrane is excellent as Hagrid, and Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are on fine form. Great cameos from John Cleese, John Hurt, Warrick Davies, and ZoŽ Wanamaker amongst others add further talent to the proceedings. My only other criticism comes from Richard Harris's performance as Dumbledore which I think is a little to serious and intense. It may have better to play a little more absentmindedly clever like William Hartnell in Doctor Who.

Chris Columbus has directed many family movies and proves a good choice for the job. He is aided by some good quality special effects. They combine together to perfection during the Quiddich match, which provides more spectacle and excitement than even the Pod race is Star Wars Phantom Menace. There is a down side and that is that the film is just not cruel enough. Consider Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this was a film that never pulled its punches when being nasty to the kids in the film. Harry Potter does not, the Dursleys do not mistreat Harry enough (just read the book to see) and Snape is not allowed to be evil enough for either the sake of misdirecting the plot or to allow Alan Rickman true acting ammunition. This cop out really reduces the effectiveness of the film.

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is a success, and it is as close to the book as can be expected. It also works well as a film in its own right. It has an impressive script, good effects and some fine acting. A couple of faults do lessen the impact and force the film to be good rather than great, but these can be fixed for the sequel (Chris Columbus can watch Willy Wonka and Harry Potter can get some acting lessons). Overall this is a highly enjoyable fantasy film with a strong British bias. Fans of the book will love it (old and young alike) and those who haven't read the book will find it a good introduction to the world of Harry Potter. Personally I can't wait till the sequel as the second book is even better.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Supperb picture
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Great effects
Features Main Feature
Features 360 Degree Self-Guided Tour Of Hogwarts
Interviews with Director Chris Columbus and Producer David Heyman
Learn How To Play Quidditch
TMeet The Ghosts Of Hogwarts
Interactive games
DVD ROM games
Verdict Great picture and sound and a wonderful set of extras targeted at just the right audience.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home