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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (****)
Directed by Chris Columbus
Written by Steve Kloves, based on the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Principal Cast
Daniel Radcliffe -- Harry Potter
Rupert Grint -- Ronald 'Ron' Weasley
Emma Watson -- Hermione Granger
John Cleese -- Sir Nicholas De Mimsy-Porpington (aka Nearly Headless Nick)
Robbie Coltrane -- Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis -- Professor Flitwick
Richard Griffiths -- Uncle Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris -- Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
Ian Hart -- Professor Quirrell
John Hurt -- Mr. Ollivander
Alan Rickman -- Professor Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw -- Aunt Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith -- Professor/Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters -- Mrs. Molly Weasley
ZoŽ Wanamaker -- Madame Hooch
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 Sorcerer's Stone I assume you have seen the film and enjoyed it, unless happiness gives you heartburn. Harry Potter is about wishes that come true, and both the book and the film are better than we had any right to hope.

There is enough plot here for ten films, and it would have been easy to rush scenes or to leave them out entirely, but we are always allowed a few moments to gape in awe at the wonder and beauty of this wholly magical world. The attention to detail is delightful -- the magical locks at Gringotts, the worn gold lettering on the wand shop -- this is a magical world that looks lived in, more real than reality.

And the acting is nothing short of miraculous, especially on the part of the child actors. I seldom comment on the acting in movies because acting is easy -- I've done a bit myself. Writing is hard. But everyone in this movie is so perfect that every time I consider singling one actor out for special praise -- Rupert Grint as Ron, perhaps, or Emma Watson as Hermione -- another name suggests itself. To be fair, I would have to list the entire cast.

The special effects are as perfect as they are inexplicable. There is no sense that we are watching special effects. We are watching magic. My son asked, "How did they do the quidditch match?" The question had not even occurred to me. They used flying broomsticks, of course.

I've watched it twice, now, and enjoyed it even more the second time. I, who abhor talking in movies, did not even mind the kids in the row behind me talking, because they tried to stop, but just couldn't contain themselves. One had read the book, and the other hadn't. "What's Snape up to?" "Shhhh! Wait and see." And, one girl who I would have thought too little to understand the film, "Oooooo! It's a dragon! I love dragons!"

The critics are mostly muggles. "Not enough emotion," is a common complaint. What they really miss are the songs. Harry doesn't sing "When you Wish Upon a Star." Hermione doesn't warble "Somewhere over the Rainbow." This isn't a sentimental film for adults who want to feel all mushy about how sweet childhood is. It's an adventure film for children who know how horrible childhood can be. The critics want someone to say, "Follow your heart, Harry. Follow your dreams." Instead, Dumbledore says, "Don't loose yourself in dreams, Harry." Harry's wishes come true because he makes the right decisions, because he is brave, and because he befriends people worthy of being called friends. There are only a few false notes in the entire film, but one of them is where Dumbledore talks to Harry about love. Yes, his mother did love him, and gave her life for him. But nobody else in the movie loves anybody. To a kid Harry's age, "Love" is a synonym for "Mush". This movie is about winning at sports, good things to eat, being admired by your classmates. It is about what real kids care about. Not about "wuvve".

There is another film that opened the same week as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It is In the Bedroom starring Sissy Spacek. The critics rave. I'll watch it, and I'll probably enjoy it, in a minor key sort of way, just as I've enjoyed hundreds of mature, realistic dramatic films. But the audience won't applaud at the end.

At the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the audience applauds.

Copyright © 2001 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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