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Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 11/11/2005

A 'Potter' Preview

By Jen Chaney

"Harry Potter" fanatics across the country are all a-quiver with anticipation, as the next movie in the series based on J.K. Rowling's novels -- "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" -- opens just one week from today.

Not to worry, young wizards: "Goblet" is easily the best movie in the series so far.

Given the general dullness of the first two films -- "Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets" -- that might not seem like high praise. But after Alfonso Cuaron's much-improved take on "Prisoner of Azkaban," I feared the latest installment might plummet like Harry after a bad hit in a Quidditch match. I was wrong.

"Goblet of Fire" is the first Potter movie I've seen before reading the book (go ahead Hogwarts-heads, mock my lack of commitment to the Rowling regime), so that may have contributed to my enjoyment. I was never entirely sure where the story was going, and that's always a good thing. But I also thought Mike Newell did a terrific job of showcasing marvelous digital effects -- the stadium at the Quidditch World Cup is pretty spectacular -- without losing his grip on the absorbing narrative. At a running time of two-and-a-half hours, any film has the potential to lose its audience. This one never does.

The principal young actors -- Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione and Rupert Grint as Ron -- are much more convincing this time as adolescents confronting hormonal change and threats from a certain dark lord (I shall not name him). I'm not sure whether that's a function of maturity or Newell's directing style, but there's a naturalness between these three that hasn't been nearly as apparent in the previous films. I particularly enjoyed the plot developments surrounding the Triwizard Ball -- it's like Harry Potter meets "Pretty in Pink."

I close with a note of caution. This "Harry" is a darker, more adult movie than any of its predecessors. Many children under the age of 8 or 9 will get freaked out by all the dragons and spooky sea creatures, not to mention the sight of a certain character whose name starts with a V (again, I shall not name him). Parents would be wise to hold off on taking younger Potter fans to see this. Of course, they probably will anyway. But just don't say I didn't warn you.

-- Jen

By Jen Chaney  | November 11, 2005; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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Dear Jen,

As a Harry Potter fan with a teenage son who is also an avid fan, I have to take issue with your characterization of the first two films as generally dull. My son and I found those films to be highly entertaining. I agree that the acting by
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint has become more sophisticated with each subsequent film, as the actors have literally grown into their roles. But the special effects and the casting of other characters have been terrific in every film, and we're looking forward to this one.

Posted by: Vicki | November 17, 2005 6:14 PM | Report abuse

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