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Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/11/2001

Four out of five stars
Running time: 150 mins

Surefire crowd-pleaser, with a terrific, note-perfect cast and impressive use of special effects - destined to be adored by adults and kids alike, despite the odd flaw.

Can there be anyone left in Britain who doesn’t know who Harry Potter is by now? If there is, there soon won’t be, as the eagerly-awaited adaptation of J.K.Rowling’s first book in her Harry Potter series has finally arrived, accompanied by a fanfare of publicity.

Fortunately for all involved, the film lives up to the hype, and despite the howls of protest when director Chris ‘Home Alone’ Columbus was announced, it turns out he was the right man for the job after all.

On his 11th birthday, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) discovers he’s a wizard when a mysterious letter informs him that he’s been enrolled at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first book in the series, a large part of the plot involves Harry’s (and our) introduction to Hogwarts and all the characters, particularly his two best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).

First of all, the cast is note-perfect - if they awarded Oscars for casting, Harry Potter’s casting director would win hands down. All the characters are exactly as you imagine them from the book: Richard Harris as Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman as Snape and, best of all, Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, who practically steals the film with his de facto catchphrase: "I shouldn’t have told you that".

Daniel Radcliffe certainly looks the part and does very well in what is an admittedly difficult role, especially as so much of it involves Harry reacting to things, which he invariably does with the same wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression.

Ron and Hermione, on the other hand, are wonderful, with Rupert Grint so good that at times you might find yourself wondering why they didn’t call the film ‘The Adventures of Ron Weasley and His Friend Harry Potter’.

The special effects, for once, are put to splendid use and don’t get in the way of the story. Highlights include the film’s two main set-pieces: the Quidditch game and the troll escape sequence. There’s also a terrific score by blockbuster maestro composer John Williams that you are guaranteed to still be humming several days after seeing the film.

Inevitably, the film won’t please everyone. They’ve been as faithful to the book as two and a half hours would allow, but the overall effect is one of ‘skipping to the best bits’.

Consequently certain details are lost, for example, they seem to solve the ‘mystery’ in seconds flat. Similarly, the ending is a disappointment and lacks the sense of deep-seated evil that was present in the book – it just isn’t scary enough and comes across as rushed.

These are minor quibbles, however, and are likely to have zero effect on the film’s imminent hugeness, box-office-wise. Hats off, too, to Chris Columbus, for delivering Rowling’s vision to the big screen as faithfully as possible.

In short, then, kids and adults alike will adore this, as the effects, story and acting all combine to produce top-class entertainment. Roll on part two. Recommended.

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Content updated: 21/05/2019 14:25

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