Apr 12, 2011

Harry Plotter: Movie 2

Despite being based off of what I consider the weakest book in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is not the worst movie in the canon. It's probably the second worst. Spoilers Ahead.

When Kenneth Branagh can't save your movie, you know you're screwed
The thing that saves the movie once again is the stellar casting.  While Kenneth Branagh doesn't make sense as Gilderoy Lockhart on paper (Lockhart being a little younger and dashing in the novels), he proves to be an inspired choice.  Branagh downplays the charm
and ups the ineptitude, making the character an even more wonderful mix of bumbling mess and braggart. Also interesting is Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley, a small but important part in creating the Ron's family's dynamic. The child acting is much improved as well, especially Emma Watson's Hermione and Matthew Lewis' Neville Longbottom. Unfortunately, Daniel Radcliffe hasn't improved much at all. In this movie as in the last, he only basically has one emotion (other than placid), which is to say that he shows a lot of teeth and always seems to be grimacing, even when he's happy. It feels forced, and he has a hard time carrying the film. Daniel Radcliffe was 12 when he filmed this, so I don't see why my lofty expectations can't be met.

Go Away!

One new character that is simply bungled beyond repair is Dobby the House Elf, who is basically the Jar Jar Binks of the Harry Potter universe. In the books he is interesting and slightly annoying. On film, he's just annoying. You just want to squish his asinine big head. Ugh. This is a character that people are supposed to care about and who becomes very important in the fourth and seventh books, but he's really just unbearable here. All he does is prove that it's very difficult to act opposite a CGI character.

"Hold On!"
And while we're on badly done CGI, let us proceed to the second film's ridiculous Added Action Sequence. This AAS comes early in the film, as Harry and Ron are riding a flying car to Hogwarts when they miss their train (Oh, Dobby, you effing cad!). In the book, the car runs out of gas as the boys are arriving at the school and they land in the Whomping Willow, a terrifying and prescient tree.  In the movie, the screenwriter decided to add an additional scene where the car almost gets hit by the train and loses control, which causes Harry to be thrown out of the car and be rescued by Ron.  This AAS It's a totally ridiculous scene that does nothing but take up time and show that Ron has superhuman strength. It's a short moment, but it's incredibly unnecessary in a film already filled with fluff.

"You?" "ME!"
We haven't touched on Quidditch yet in these reviews. In the books, it is a really great sport that seems like loads of fun. In the first two movies, though, it's just badly filmed. All of the action seems stagnant, with boring action inter-cut with Harry making "Aw, Shucks" reaction shots. Even a rogue bludger doesn't improve things much. That's all I have to say.

Anagrams are a part of the BIG REVEAL - Voldemort loves Word Jumbles!

One thing that I think is done well is the climax of the movie. On paper, it is difficult to imagine a Phoenix/Basilisk battle, and Christopher Columbus does an admirable job both showing and not showing the action. It's just a shame the villain is so ineffectual. In later books, evil wizards actually practice evil magic, Here, Tom Riddle/Voldemort basically just taunts Harry, even though Tom HAS A WAND! It's a tad stupid.  I hate to be the one person hoping for more murder in a kid's movie, but the second installment lacks any real stakes. All that viewers know is that, if the snake does kill you, you come back as an awesome, quick-witted ghost who is portrayed by the equally awesome Shirley Henderson (who is apparently fond of crying in bathrooms).

Ginny has had most of her soul sucked out of her, but don't let that distract you from worrying about Dobby.
In the end, everything works out, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione welcome Hagrid back to the school. Ginny is saved and so is Dobby, and everyone goes home happy.  It's a totally light, frothy piece of fun, and it lowers the bar for the next film (which it needn't have done, as the next movie is pretty great). Overall, meh.

Book Grade: B- (Check out the Book Review HERE)
Movie Grade: C+
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