ARE YOU A POTHEAD? (part 2)

Obviously I’m not a Harry fan, but I liked the idea of Harry Potter for one reason – my daughter is now on the fourth book. She actually turns off the television and video games to *gasp* read. Now that is kind of cool. I read quite a bit as a kid too. My favorites were everything from Roald Dahl with the “Wonka” books to Tom Swift, Danny Dunn, the Hardy Boys and my personal favorites, the Beverly Cleary books on Henry Huggins which featured characters like Beezus and Ramona the pest. (Yeah, I know there are a lot of you out there who read these books as well.) Somehow these books never caught on with her. But she has devoured the Potter books with the same enthusiasm that she would open a new pack of Pokemon cards. So, while I was not exactly counting the days until Harry would be unleashed upon the world, I did appreciate the fact that my daughter had discovered reading while still surrounded by so many distractions.
I was not a fan, didn’t care, the subject matter didn’t interest me at all. Then I went to see the movie. Harry Potter is perhaps the best fantasy film ever. I defy you to name one that even comes close. It’s highly entertaining and the two and a half hours wiz by. I enjoyed seeing familiar elements from fantasy books and films used in a completely fresh and original way. If I were 12 years-old, this would be the greatest film I had ever seen. (And I am pretty much a 12 year-old in spirit anyway.) I loved it, so I guess that makes me a Pothead.
Now the critics have done what they normally always do, they’ve pretty much all said the same thing. This happens quite a bit. Either the average critics have nothing original to say, or they forget the intended audience of the work. They’ve pretty much all said that while the film does a great job of translating the book to the screen, and it is truly magical, it’s uinspired.
Critics are less than enthusiastic about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Are they right? Or are the critics simply cynical and out of touch? Here’s a sampling of reviews:
• E! Online – (grade: B+) “…ends up simply drifting instead of soaring.”
• Entertainment Weekly – (grade: B) “…many charms, but few surprises.”
• Hollywood Reporter – “Takes only a few shortcuts and hews as close to the spirit of a literary work as any movie can…”
• Los Angeles Times – “…shuns any risk-taking.”
• New York Times – “…has a dreary, literal-minded competence…”
• Newsweek – “…cluttered and confusing, utterly lacking in schoolboy lyricism.”
• Rolling Stone – “Is the movie any good? At the dawn of the twenty-first century, when art is defined by commerce, this question is beside the point.”
• San Francisco Chronicle – “Director Chris Columbus gets it mostly right…”
• Time – “…the book was better…than director Chris Columbus’ meticulous, stolid film.”
• TV Guide – (3½ out of 5 stars) ” It may be long, but it’s not boring…”
• Village Voice – “Solid but uninspired…”
• Slant (Preview) – “…Columbus’s adaptation looks to be, at the very least, an honest one.”

Even the reviews that slam the film still admit that there are moments of pure fantasy. And if a film like Harry Potter can convert a non-believer like myself, well, that must be magic. Go ahead and call me a sucker, but for two and a half hours in a movie theater I was transported to a new world and shared a moviegoing experience with my kids that we both enjoyed. And that’s more than I can say for 99% of the films released this year. Potter may not be “Citizen Kane,” but it has renewed my faith in the fantasy genre and I look forward to the next chapter in the series.
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Posted on November 23, 2001 in Features by
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