Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by Staff

BySam MillerSenior Staff Writer

By now, we all know the premise of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’sStone: Take a guaranteed blockbuster, release it around Thanksgivingand breathe easy knowing that every family in America is buying atleast 2.4 tickets, whether or not it’s any good.

I mean, gosh, the last time a movie had this much hype was back inMay of 1999, when another “Part 1” came out, about an orphaned boywith unprecedented control over supernatural forces, telling thefirst chapter of a story millions already knew and loved.

And, geez, the last time a movie of such scope and anticipationfell flat on its face in an overly-ambitious attempt at an epic wasback in 1999…

All right, so maybe Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone doesn’ttumble as bad as The Phantom Menace did, but Chris Columbus’adaptation will never stand up to the intoxicatingly high barliterary Harry set.

Instead, Sorcerer’s Stone fails in the same way television sitcompilots fail: It’s just too hard to tell a story when you have tocreate a world, too, and do it all, in this case, in 154 minutes.Hell, the titular stone doesn’t even show up until minute 97.

Instead, Columbus stammers through Potter’s mini-adventures whiletrying to keep nearly every detail — every descriptive word, itsometimes seems — from J.K. Rowling’s novel. Eight minutes are spenton a basically meaningless match of Quidditch, a popular wizard sportthat looks about as fun as BASEketball. Five minutes are spent on achess match. And there’s the director’s misguided attention to theoddities of the wizards’ world, which in this case don’t even live upto Sonnenfield’s gadgets and quirks in Men in Black.

Without the chapter breaks of a novel, the uncompelling story isnothing but tidbits, snippets and muggles driving Volkswagens. Kidsmight be enraptured, but their parents are going to squirm.

That said, Sorcerer’s Stone, isn’t an unwatchable movie, with itsstunning fictional setting (another Phantom Menace reminder), amore-than-competent British cast of children and a pretty freakin’entertaining broader story to work from.

And while Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Harry Potter isadmirable, his character never takes off. In fact, the pace ofcharacter development, never more important than in a series such asthis, is numbingly slow. Potter’s magical knack is hinted at earlybut downplayed for the sake of sequels. Like most of the film, thecharacter dawdles, an annoying result of guaranteed sequels –there’s no incentive to get anything done now.

But there should be. The best trilogies aren’t usually writtenlike this, as a group, with little concern for the standalone valueof each picture. How fun would the original Back to the Future havebeen if time travel was only thought about, but not actually actedon, until Back to the Future 2?

Sorcerer’s Stone is a $100 million setup; until there’s a payoff,though, it’s a waste.

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