Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (2001) – movie review

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Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, John Cleese
Director: Chris Columbus

You know the story… Harry Potter is the only living person to have survived an encounter with the evil dark lord shh… you know who – no not Schweppes but Lord Valdemort. Harry lost his parents in this fateful encounter and has been living with his horrific aunt, uncle and cousin under their stairs, until, on his 11 th birthday, he receives an invitation to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he not only finds his first real friends but the truth about the scar on his forehead and most importantly…himself.

So does the movie live up to expectations after all the disappointment from similarly anticipated blockbusters (STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 THE PHANTOM MENACE etc)? Well not only does it live up to our high expectations; it surpasses them in nearly every way. The casting is flawless. Daniel Radcliffe is excellent as Potter, as are Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. Although I still think Peter O’Toole would have been perfect in the role of Dumbledore, Richard Harris is fine, if slightly underused. The outstanding piece of casting however is Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid who really does steal the show, although Alan Rickman breathes heavily down his neck as Snape.

The sets are magnificent, the script is tight and all of the various technicians have done the most amazing job of lifting the wonderful world of Harry Potter directly from the books and onto the big screen. Every element is perfectly in place and exactly like you imagined it to be – Dijon Alley, The Hogwarts express, Gringotts et al.

The Quidditch match, the centrepiece of the first book on which the movie is based is handled very well (a sort of witches version of ROLLERBALL) and some of the monsters (the troll, the three headed dog and the centaur) take you back to the Ray Harryhausen SINBAD days of yore. Although I had doubts about the running time of the title, which is essentially a kid’s movie, but don’t say that too loudly to the adults who made up the bulk of the audience, the 2 hours 32 minutes seems to fly by. Although some have complained that the title is merely a compilation of the best bits of the novel – that is not a bad thing. There are indeed some key scenes missing but really, it would have been too long if they were added (a second Quidditch match would have been too much).

The smaller parts are played beautifully by the who’s who of British acting; Julie Walters as Mrs Weasley and John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick. Rik Mayall was listed as playing Poltergeist Peeves – he was so good I didn’t even see him (either this was cut or he’s taking method acting a little too far). The choice of Leslie Phillips as the voice of “The Sorting Hat” is fantastic. All credit must go to J K Rowling in making sure that her vision wasn’t ruined by too much involvement from Hollywood and director Chris Columbus for the subtle way all the elements that made the books a phenomenon are all present and correct.

This is a must see film for all the family. Even those who haven’t read the books will want to do so after seeing the movie, so if both the books and now the movie promote reading then that can only be a good thing. I understand that kids are now proud to wear glasses in the schoolyard because of Harry Potter. If the first thing they see through these glasses is the movie and the first thing they read is one of the Potter books, then that too can only be a good thing as it will match the clarity of the vision maintained by of all those involved in this excellent film.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: A magical piece of cinema.

6 out of 6 stars