By Ben Kessler: CNJ movie reviewer
While I’m not the biggest fan of Harry Potter, I do think it’s a neat concept. I also like the fact that it’s written by someone from my homeland (insert “Rule Brittania” here).
Aside from all that, though, the thing that I like the most about the stories is how they change with the character, and the latest movie manages to do that also.
In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Daniel Radcliffe reprises his role as Harry Potter, a now-teenage wizard who is still very new to the world of magic, despite his fame within it. In his third year at Hogwarts School of Magic, Harry’s troubles at home have become unbearable and his fits of temper are becoming dangerous. Teenagers, honestly.
Anyhoo, when he returns to Hogwarts, he discovers a dangerous killer, and henchman of Harry’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort, has escaped Azkaban Prison (the magic prison, and this is the only place you’ll see those two words used together), and is searching for Harry with the intent of killing him.
Harry is reunited with his friends, Ron and Hermione, (played by Rupert Grint and Emma Watson respectively, reprising their roles from the first two movies), and begins preparing himself for the trial ahead. Although, as usual, he hasn’t been told everything.
The Harry Potter movies (and books, from what I hear) can be incredibly predictable, and this one had its predictable moments. But this time there were some genuine surprises thrown in.
Fans of the book will be glad to see the dark feel to “Prizoner” has made it to the big screen, with (very) slightly more adult themes and situations.
My abject dislike of child actors not withstanding, I think Radcliffe, Grint and Watson are growing into their parts. As actors in the most popular fad of this century (thus far), they risk getting typecast in the future, but I’m sure their monthly bank statements will help cushion the sting.
They are good at their roles, and know what they have to do to pull them off. Radcliffe seems genuinely upset in some scenes.
Having said that, all three of them begin overacting at points, but they’ve got time.
Other actors reprising their roles include Alan Rickman as the strict-but-complicated Professor Snape (who reminds me of many teachers I had while attending a British grammar school) Robbie Coltrane as big-hearted Hagrid and Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, who has less screen time in this movie, but pulls off her part adequately.
The new faces in this installment are David Thewlis (“Dragonheart”) as the kindly Professor Lupin, Gary Oldman as the sinister Sirius Black (because he’s perfected villainy. I vote him most likely to snap and become a real-life villain) and Michael Gambon replacing the late Richard Harris as Professor Dumbledore. I was worried he would come across as a cheap replacement, but Gambon has made the character his own.
Despite its advancement in maturity, it’s still for the younger audience and they will enjoy it. It’s got plenty of action and mystery to keep the kids engaged, and the parents won’t have too much trouble sitting through it either.
The only big problem I have is every plotline revolving around the fact that everyone goes to great lengths to hide important, life-saving information from Harry “for his own good.”
The acting is coming along, and the special effects are awesome. One of the benefits of making a movie franchise with multiple stories to tell is the filmmakers can take their time getting it right. They are closer than ever with this latest offering.
It gets a four.
Show: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman.
Summary: Wizard prodigy Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for his third year with another sinister force plotting his demise: the convicted murderer, Sirius Black.
Show times: Daily at 12:45 p.m., 4 p.m., 7:10 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Rating: Rated PG for frightening moments, creature violence and mild language.