Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone–Before You See It

                                                                                                                           4:18 a.m.         1/15/16/05

The first time I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I had more important business to take care of-such as watching someone’s ass as he lay on the floor before me.  That’s why when I watched it the second time, a few years later, I couldn’t remember seeing it before.  In fact, I was convinced for the first ten minutes that I hadn’t seen the movie before.  Only when I saw Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) bursting into the Dursley’s home away from home to fetch Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) did I recognize what the hell is going on.  That’s my main criticism of the Harry Potter books and to some extent the movies themselves.  They’re good while reading/watching them, but they’re instantly forgettable.

I know Potter fans will get in a dither or a lather over those fighting words, but I call them like I see them.  And what I see in this movie is how young the stars all look.  You have to understand that I watched the third and second movie before I saw the first one again, so it’s quite startling to look at them in the first where they’re just babies.  Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), especially, is so cute.  Then there’s Draco (Tom Felton) with his baby face.  How can anybody think he’s a villain?  He’s way too damn cute for that.  I have a hard time taking him seriously when he looks like a blond chipmunk.  It’s stunning how much he grows from first movie to third.

I think it’s better to read the books first before watching the movies, otherwise you miss a lot of what’s going on.  They zip along at a fast pace, and you’ll have a hard time catching your breath if you don’t know the background.  This movie is good at establishing in broad strokes Harry Potter, the character in the first ten minutes.  Once we know a little about him, we’re off to the races. 

Harry Potter finds out he’s a wizard and attends Hogswarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first time.  He meets Ron on the train, as well as Hermione (Emma Watson).  This is the trio who dominates most of the books, and it’s nice to see their first interactions.  It’s also nice to watch them grow, but I’ll deal with that in a later review.  Suffice to say, Hermione is a little know-it-all; Ron is a wisecracker; and Harry is confused.  Hey, it’s a lot to digest that you’re a wizard and that your parents didn’t die of a car crash like you’ve been told all your life.  It’s bound to take time to adjust.

The one thing about this series that bothers me is how dumb the adults seem to be.  I understand that the kids are the focus, but Albus Dumbledore (the late, great Sir Richard Harris) is supposed to be the greatest wizard of all time, and yet, he can be amazingly thick at times.  The same with Professor McGonagall (Dame Maggie Smith).  She is a sharp witch, but she inexplicitly refuses to listen to Harry and company when they try to tell her there’s trouble afoot.  This screams of plot device to me, and it’s irksome.  Not enough to put me off my feed, but just enough to make me complain about it.

The action is plenty, and I’m sure the booger jokes amuse the kids.  Personally, I find myself more drawn to Snape (Alan Rickman) watching, but that’s just my personal bias.  He is the Potions master and head of Slytherin House, from whence all the bad witches come, but he wants to be the Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Rickman commands the stage every time he strides onto the set, and it’s clear that he relishes the role.  Who wouldn’t, getting to wear all-black and snarl all the time?  It’s sounds like a great role to me.  I jest, but he’s actually the most intriguing adult because he’s complex.  I’m never quite sure if he’s good or bad or somewhere in between.  He does a great job of keeping you guessing as well. 

This is a popcorn movie, to be sure, but one on a magnificent scale.  The chess scene is my favorite and my only gripe about it is that it’s not long enough.  Yes, I like the destruction, so sue me.  It’s also a scene in which Ron gets to shine.  The last scene at the school bothers me, but I won’t ruin it for the two people who haven’t seen the movie and say why.  If you really want to know, check out the in-depth review where I go on about it at length.  Put this on your Netflix Queue if you want a light, enjoyable movie which you won’t remember for long.  Perfect for a chilly Minnesota night.

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