Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets review by The Grim Ringler

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Who would have ever thought that Christopher Columbus would one day make two films I would adore? Sure, I like Home Alonefor the silly little movie it is, but I never really expected to look forwardto a movie that was made by the comedy equivalent to Michael Bay, but dammit, I adore his two Harry Potter films. They are the sort of movies that just kinda put you in a place that feels so real you can almost believe it is. Which is not to say by any stretch that Columbus is a terribly gifted director, but sometimes being able to let the story tell itself and not get in the way is a talent in and of itself, and just not screwing things up can become a bit of a gift as well.

This time around our hero Harry is back at Hogwarts School of Wizardry for his second year of wizard’s training, only as his fame grows, so do Harry’s enemies, watching him with a mix of envy and anger at what he has achieved at such a young age. But life at Hogwarts, despite a hectic late arrival by Harry and his friend Ron, returns to the normal routine in no time and it looks as if Harry can finally concentrate on becoming a better wizard. That isn’t meant to be though it seems as yet again there are dark forces afoot at the school of wizardry and Harry and his friends are again put dead in the center of it. This time someone has found the school’s legendary Chamber of Secrets, a chamber created by one of the school’s founders to eliminate the ‘mudblood’, or half-human, half-magic-folk, from the school. Inside this chamber is a monster whose only mission is to kill all mudbloods without fail. But who has found and opened the chamber, where is it, and how can they stop what was released? As all these questions are raised we find Harry has become a darker character, beginning to question himself and where his own abilities have come from, and whether it could have been he that unwittingly opened the chamber. And it’s this darker tone that the movie takes that really sets it apart from the first one. Where the first film was a fun, if oft times ‘scary’ adventure, the action turns dark early on and stays in the shadows gleefully. The movie even, towards the end, almost becomes a horror film, the perils that Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron go through becoming that dire. But it’s the central characters and how well they are played that keeps the film well-centered and even, making sure we still remember who and what we are pulling for and making sure not to let the horror over-take the whimsy that is always there as an undercurrent.

As a fun, family fantasy film it’s great. It’s smart, it’s funny, and it doesn’t soft-soap any of the darkness that starts to come in towards the middle of the film. The stakes are life and death and they are played straight. And as just a movie, I think it succeeds. No, it isn’t high art and won’t win Best Picture, but hell, who said it was meant to? Some movies are meant to be what they are, a fun diversion that, if you are lucky, leaves you breathless and wanting more. If you can say anything about director Chris Columbus it’s that he got the right people for the jobs of the characters and didn’t butt in too much to muck up the works.

The special effects are top-notch, though a smidge below Star Wars level, go fig, but they are realistic so you don’t see the zippers and never seem to steal the movie away from the actors. And truly, this is a movie for the actors. Kenneth Branagh, as the school’s newest teacher on the defense from the black arts is wonderful as a vain-glorious blowhard that proclaims to be steeped in adventure but that ends up as more puff than stuff. And the rest of the cast is good as well, especially the kids, who play their parts well and don’t leave you with a young Anakin Skywalker bad-taste in your mouth. Yippee!

All in all a great movie, maybe better than the first. If you can suck it up and swallow your nonsense – it’s a kids film – claptrap then you are bound to enjoy this fun little flick. Now let’s hope the sequels to come are just as entertaining and well made.


9 out of 10 Jackasses

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