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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (****)
Directed by Chris Columbus
Written by Steve Kloves, based on the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Principal Cast
Daniel Radcliffe -- Harry Potter
Emma Watson -- Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint -- Ronald 'Ron' Weasley
Richard Harris -- Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
Maggie Smith -- Professor/Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall
Robbie Coltrane -- Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid
Alan Rickman -- Professor Severus Snape
Warwick Davis -- Professor Flitwick
Sean Biggerstaff -- Oliver Wood
Shirley Henderson -- Moaning Myrtle
Miriam Margolyes -- Professor Sprout
Alfred Burke -- Headmaster Armando Dippet
Sally Mortemore -- Madam Irma Pince
David Bradley -- Groundskeeper Argus Filch
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is not quite as good as the first Harry Potter film, but it is still filled with charm and excitement. The director, Chris Columbus, noted for letting his actors go too far in hamming it up, kept everyone well under control in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In Chamber of Secrets he allows some of the actors, notably Rupert Grint who plays Ron Weasley, to slip from acting into clowning. Ron's mother also is too much of a caricature. But Ron's dad is perfect in a part that it would be easy to overdo. And all the old hams prove that they really can act, especially Alan Rickman and Kenneth Branagh, both of whom could have gone too far with the slightest hint of encouragement. Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry, is at a difficult age. Few actors have successfully made the transition from child actor to adult actor, a transition he is having to make in the glare of the spotlight. He is growing up faster than his character, just as Macaulay Culkin did in the not-as-bad-as-you-might-think Richie Rich film. Even in show business, time passes. People grow up. People die. Richard Harris, in his last role, is brilliant as Professor Dumbledore. I do not think they should replace him. Better to be true to the magic than true to the books. Let Professor McGonagal (or Professor Snape!) become head of Hogwarts in the third film.

The critics mostly say that the second Harry Potter film is better than the first. What they really mean is that they have gotten over their snit at an unpretentious director like Chris Columbus being more successful than he has any right to be, and succumbed to the charms of the material.

I found Dobby, the house elf, a bit intrusive, a little too much like Jar Jar Binks -- and I liked Jar Jar Binks! It is a question of genre. Star Wars is in the genre of the movie serial, all action. And Jar Jar is squarely in the tradition of the comic relief, like Vultan the Hawkman in the first Flash Gordon serial. Harry Potter is in the genre of children's classic, where the humor is wry rather than slapstick, and where character is important. So Dobby, whose expression in every frame is as exaggerated and emotional as the expressions of Jar Jar or of Bugs Bunny, seems a bit too much. Good in itself, but working against the sentimental mood of the film.

The next Harry Potter movie will be directed by Alfonso Cuaron, director of Yo Mama (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and The Little Princess. Both fine films, both an indication that the look and feel of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will be very different from that of the first two Harry Potter films.

When you go to see Chamber of Secrets, be sure to stick around for the credit cookie.

Copyright © 2002 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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