Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

By Mark Ramsey | 2001/11/14

Does it really matter whether this movie is good? Aren’t you gonna see it anyway? Never has a review seemed so superfluous as one for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, especially from this reviewer, who’s a muggly muggle if ever there was one.

With names like Percy, Neville, and Hermione, either you’re in a hair salon talking to Pete, Ned, and Heidi or you’re in the UK. Specifically, it’s that fantastical part of the UK where the peeps are highly costumed and kid wizards whiz about on their broomsticks. broomstick-whizzing is a remarkably long tradition considering boys riding broomsticks should have lost all ability to conceive generations ago, not to mention all desire for it.


In Britain, they call it the Philosopher‘s stone, not the Sorcerer’s stone. Why the dumbing-down for American tastes? Are we not able to posit existentially? Have we not obsessed over iron nails for a hundred pages beside Walden Pond? Did we not put the Whiz in Cheez? Did we not coin the phrase “I think of Jennifer Lopez, therefore I am”? Would we not prefer a treatise on the meaning of existence to a monochromatic duel of good versus evil?

Never mind Thanks for dumbing things down.

Daniel Radcliffe, the kid playing Harry, is terrific. Beware, Daniel: If history is any judge, you’ll either marry Rachel Miner before you turn 17 or you’ll get stuck in a dumb thriller with John Travolta. John attracts dumb thrillers like wizards attract wise old owls, except for the “wise” part.

Richard Harris is the headmaster of Harry’s wizard school, Hogwarts and all. With his long, flowing beard and finely coiffed gray “do” he seems to be appearing in Macy’s display window plugged in for the holidays. Who better than Richard to be head wizard? After all, no one has made more pints of stout vanish and suffered more spells thereafter.

harrypotter_cher.jpgAlthough I have not read the books (which, I’ve heard, require reading), I get the appeal for this Harry Potter stuff. Harry’s a uniquely gifted, “abnormal” child, unappreciated at home and absent his parents. With an enchanted sense of wonder, he plumbs his power to create magic and achieve heroic, wonderful things. These are sub-themes both mythic and timely. What’s not to like?

Harry Potter is chocked full of imaginative beasties, from a giant troll, to an enormous three-headed dog named “fluffy,” to scads of freaky munchkin Joel Grey-looking goblins.

Robbie Coltrane is back From Hell as a giant, bushy lug of a wizard who should conjure up a dapper outfit and a good shave. Robbie’s been materializing too many large deep-dish pizzas and channeling too much Rob Zombie, if you ask me.

Most thrilling is the life-size game of chess and the dizzying pod race of a ball game on flying digital broomsticks. I searched my arm-wrest for the X-Box console, but had to settle for decades-old gum. Yuck. Get it off! What’s more, I loved the paintings springing to life as folks walked by and a book opening to a screaming page and almost a screaming me.

So is the movie good? Well, if you were hoping this wizard was from Oz you’ll be disappointed. But if your aspirations soar no higher than Willy Wonka’s glass elevator (and that’s pretty high), then you’ll be kicking up your heels with wizardly glee. At almost two-and-a-half hours, this movie’s a little flabby around the middle, but so is my kitty cat and I love her. Harry Potter gets my wand a-waving (hey, get it out of the gutter).

When it comes to kids, nobody beats the wiz.

Photos Copyright ©2001 Warner Brothers


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