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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.2%
Average: 17.32%
Pretty Bad: 5.51%
Total Crap: 9.84%

9 reviews, 200 user ratings

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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by EricDSnider

"In which Harry Potter's voice changes and so does the director."
5 stars

With regard to the near-impossible task of making a Harry Potter film that captures all the magic and cleverness of its source material, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" succeeds more thoroughly than either of its predecessors. It is darker and funnier than "The Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Chamber of Secrets," and in nearly every way a better movie.

The difference, of course, is in the direction. Chris Columbus was never more than a serviceable director, offering average entertainment such as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Home Alone" before delivering his overly faithful adaptations of the first two Harry Potter books.

Now we have Alfonso Cuarón, a genuinely talented filmmaker ("Y Tu Mama Tambien," "A Little Princess") with a creative eye and a fresh vision. Where Columbus was content to make films that told the stories from J.K. Rowling's novels without distinction, Cuarón uses camera angles, sight gags, scary special effects and (above all) a lively pace to make "The Prisoner of Azkaban" every bit as good a MOVIE as it is a book adaptation. The other films felt like nothing more than companion pieces to the novels, illustrations to go along with the words; this one stands on its own.

Chew on this: The third book in the series is 100 pages longer than the first two, yet the third film is a good 20 minutes shorter -- and still, nothing significant is missing. What Cuarón and screenwriter Steve Kloves (who adapted the other films, too, though apparently with more freedom) have done is streamline the story. Where a book can have events add up over the course of, say, two evenings before coming to a head, it makes more sense for a film to condense the action into one scene. "Azkaban" does this repeatedly, thus finally satisfying fans who want the same flavor and plot lines as the books, while not trying the patience of moviegoers who are perhaps not as rabid in their devotion to the novels and who simply want a solid, well-focused film.

Harry's (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry finds him and his fellow students on edge because notorious murderer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from the inescapable Azkaban prison. Consequently, the Ministry of Magic has sent troops of Dementors -- cloaked, Reaper-like demons who suck the souls out of their captives -- to patrol the periphery of the school.

Sirius Black, it is said, was responsible for the death of Harry's parents and presumably wants to find Harry to finish off the Potters altogether. Harry, meanwhile, deals with the usual problems of a schoolboy: his broomstick breaks, Snape (Alan Rickman) is still on his case, and kind-hearted Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is in trouble because one of his odd creatures bit Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). You know, kid stuff.

As his best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have some alone time on field trips to Hogsmeade -- where Harry can't go because his guardians wouldn't sign the permission slip -- he finds a confidante in Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor who harbors a dark secret himself. Lupin helps Harry learn how to conjure a Patronus, a protective phantasm that can help him defend himself against the Dementors.

The first chunk of the film and the last chunk -- which involves the manipulation of time! -- are the best, whizzing with sly humor (the Whomping Willow makes occasional appearances) and marvelous special effects. Buckbeak the hippogriff -- part eagle, part horse -- is a wonder to behold, and the Dementors are hideously frightening. The thrill of the Knight Bus -- a high-speed wizard transport service that Muggles can't see -- is captured with a sort of mad energy, and aided by John Williams' whimsical score.

In the middle, things are not as buoyant. The books deliver the events of a single school year in linear fashion, without regard for the story having a clear beginning, middle and end. The films have not yet mastered the art of following that pattern without occasionally feeling like they're not GOING anywhere, and even Cuarón is unable to avoid the trap.

The performances continue to be rich and, where suitable, personable. Gary Oldman and David Thewlis are welcome additions, and Emma Thompson is a hoot as Sybil Trelawney, the addle-pated professor of divination. (I submit that even if she were to play a mass murderer, Emma Thompson would still be unbelievably appealing and likable in the role.)

Only the most hardline fans of the books will object to the minor customizations made for the film. All else will praise its ingenuity, spirit and wicked sense of humor.

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originally posted: 06/11/04 16:09:10
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User Comments

1/06/15 suck perfect for kids and retarded your must watch LOTR! 1 stars
1/07/11 Stack Clearly the best and most sophisticated of the series. 5 stars
8/17/10 Lenny Zane Last HP film before I lost track of story. Better than 1st; not as good as 2nd. 3 stars
1/28/10 Dane Youssef The movies finally have a life of their own. Now Harry is alive. This one rivets. 5 stars
8/11/09 the dork knight Cofnusing as all hell. I liked the time travel bit at the end. 3 stars
7/26/09 David When harry potter movies started getting dark. 4 stars
7/14/09 cody a good movie in the series, harry gets enough of his aunt and uncle. 3 stars
11/01/08 Annie G My favorite of the series so far (out of 5) – best adaptation. 4 stars
3/30/08 Pamela White slower action but watchable 3 stars
7/27/07 Bitchflaps Hands down the best in the series so far. Cuaron brings the story to life. 5 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger it did justice to the characters. they expanded and felt like they were growing up finally. 5 stars
6/02/07 danielle its awesomeeeee 5 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Will entertain the kiddies, but the darker bits could scare them. 4 stars
9/02/06 Stanley Thai Better than the second film. This series is full of wonder. 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist How many damn times do I need to repeat myself? They all dragged a little. 3 stars
8/05/06 David Cohen Where are the school robes? Who moved Hagrid's hut? Film series going down fast! 3 stars
6/23/06 George Despite the fact you can follow what its about, The Novel adapting is undeveloped 3 stars
6/23/06 Arunita Did not do full justice to the book,made Harry look like a total whiner. 1 stars
6/02/06 Marcia Zarwetten-Grassi Have't yet seen GOBLET OF FIRE, but hope it's better than this. 3 stars
4/22/06 Jack Chamber of secrets rocks. This one dosen't 3 stars
3/09/06 Anthony Feor Harry is on thin ice 3 stars
2/10/06 Meredith Harshaw Geez, previous poster -- MEAN GIRLS is FICTION! Get over it! 4 stars
2/10/06 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Since they can time-travel, why don't they go all the way back & save Harry's parents? 3 stars
12/28/05 tony Not the greatest film 3 stars
11/27/05 Daveman Best film of the series, much better than the Goblet of Fire 5 stars
11/24/05 chris brilliant sequel 5 stars
11/23/05 Quigley story is way confusing, but acting is good, CG is great, and gary oldman is awesome as heck 3 stars
11/16/05 Adrian Despite the WTF ending, this is a different but excellent Harry Potter movie. 5 stars
11/12/05 van zwaar potters a TWAT,wizard with a bomber jacket n baggy trousers LMFAO 1 stars
11/07/05 Fan no.1 I luv this movie and Daniel Radcliffe. He is really cute. And i hate those who dislike him. 5 stars
11/03/05 jayvee chun the best of the series yet. Alfonso for president! 5 stars
10/31/05 Bronwyn Best movie out of d 3 4 stars
10/27/05 dobo fuks potter wat a shite ripoff,with about as much depth to its story as a smelly floata in the loo 1 stars
10/12/05 Tom Burns A great sequel. loved it. 5 stars
9/14/05 Jonathon Holmes the best Potter film yet, despite the rushed ending; one of the years 10 best 5 stars
9/03/05 Amin Wow! Wonderful 5 stars
8/28/05 Quigley good directing can't save this confusing excuse for a movie. ship this and watch LOTR, kids 2 stars
8/28/05 Carolyn Rathburn Awesome, loved its magic hated Harry didn't get to move out of his Uncles. 5 stars
8/17/05 JAMES STAP STAP NO PAMUK 4 stars
8/12/05 Littlepurch Book changed but it all adds to film quality. Clever additions in time travel sequences. 5 stars
7/25/05 Jake An exellent companion piece to the book 5 stars
7/23/05 DM My, how much difference a change in director can make. 5 stars
7/20/05 Chris Much better than the previous two movies 4 stars
6/29/05 .... potters a fag 1 stars
6/21/05 xyz beeeeeeeeeeeesssssttttt movie ever been made in this universe 5 stars
6/14/05 gellatina whatever you say harry potter is the best 5 stars
6/13/05 anvesha rai harry potter not too good 1 stars
5/31/05 lucy fantastic 5 stars
5/27/05 tony Is harry potter going downhill.Not his best role or movie. Very slow at some parts.But good 3 stars
5/20/05 Julia Nielson I think this movie was absoultly amazing 5 stars
4/23/05 Quigley the worst of the three. dark and pretty lame. whoever says LOTR stinks is mindless. 2 stars
4/19/05 Nicole Baugh The books and movies are getting darker but Harry is growing up. Great movie. 5 stars
4/19/05 Bonnie James I liked the first directors vison better and missed the old Dumbeldore 3 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway Great movie 5 stars
4/03/05 virginija risteska I love daniel radcliffe and i love this movie.It is fantastic 5 stars
3/31/05 hannaho As the books get longer, it's harder to pack it all in 2-1/2 hours. 3 stars
3/23/05 Suzanne Butler Great cinematography, excellent movie! 5 stars
3/13/05 sbpat21 So spectacular and just plain gothic 5 stars
3/08/05 Nic T It was an excellent movie I will always treasure. 5 stars
3/05/05 Carolyn Rathburn Absolutely loved it. Hurrah for Harry 5 stars
3/05/05 Gloria Anderson I love all the HP movies 5 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung good but not great 4 stars
3/01/05 Jeanette T. Satisfying as an art film; less satisfying as entertainment 4 stars
2/28/05 Diane Stedner Good Need to Watch 4 stars
2/27/05 dbx Bigger mistakes, but also bigger successes than the first two! 5 stars
2/27/05 Beverley Mooren Thank you for sponsoring the contest. 4 stars
2/27/05 Charlene Javier Cuaron is a god. 5 stars
2/26/05 Theresa Wagner Great for kids 4 stars
2/26/05 Denise great 4 stars
2/26/05 James Kiang While I felt the movie was shot well, some of the location changes were a bit jarring. 3 stars
2/15/05 Bob what kind of shit are our kids watching? a homo wizard which likes the wand up his ass 1 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Another great Harry Potter installment! 4 stars
2/05/05 youreo This was a bit darker than the previous ones. It seems to be a pattern. 4 stars
1/31/05 Bonnie James First two were better 3 stars
1/18/05 Ionicera captured the spirit of the books better than the first two 4 stars
1/14/05 JJ yes it could be far far better like rotk 3 stars
1/12/05 Travis S. Could it BE any better! ;) ***** 5 stars
1/10/05 Jim Better and darker than the first two 4 stars
1/07/05 Meredith Harshaw Geez, previous poster. MEAN GIRLS is FICTION! Get over it! 4 stars
1/07/05 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Since they can time-travel, why don't they go all the way back & save Harry's parents? 3 stars
12/29/04 y2mckay I'm no HP fan, but this was a surprisingly decent movie 4 stars
12/07/04 yo gooey ur a little hp ass lovin fag,who licks out toilet bowls i hate hp,but i like this film abit,only downpoint is harry is in it 3 stars
12/05/04 poppertop205 I love these movies, and this one is the best yet! 5 stars
12/05/04 pothead its not fantasy..its muppetsy 2 stars
12/04/04 Denise much better than the last 4 stars
12/01/04 jennifer def. worse than 1st 2. director SUCKED, whats with the "ethnic" touches and crap? 2 stars
11/28/04 Charlene Javier Just watched it again on DVD. Truly wonderful! 5 stars
11/27/04 Destiny Pifer Awesome movie!! 5 stars
11/17/04 Karen The best film ever Dan Radcliffe was so HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/26/04 Puspa Allamanda The worst fucking film I ever seen 1 stars
10/26/04 lotrEEproper owns this shi& gives lotr a run 4 its money does it!!umm sure little 12 y old ROTKEE beats all 3 hpfilms 1 stars
10/21/04 Meredith Harshaw Geez, previous poster! MEAN GIRLS is FICTION. Get over it! 4 stars
10/07/04 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Since they can time-travel, why don't they go all the way back & save Harry's parents? 3 stars
9/30/04 Ionicera Best of the Potters so far 4 stars
9/26/04 Daveman Finally, a Harry Potter film that could give The Lord Of The Rings a run for its money. 5 stars
9/02/04 Victor Hom Masterpiec based on a masterpiece novel 5 stars
8/25/04 danny so bad it made poke'mon look good 1 stars
8/19/04 courtney the best of 3 the book will tell you about black when the movie dosent though 5 stars
8/11/04 f up Darker versions are always better 5 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G hott ass bitch 2 stars
7/29/04 Phoenix Black THE BEST YET!! EXCELLENT! LOVED IT! 5 stars
7/24/04 Kelly Fantastic book turned into a fantastic movie!! 5 stars
7/24/04 Littlepurch Best of the 3. Not for loyalty to the book but wel plotted and hilarious.Fat Lady the BEST! 5 stars
7/24/04 Sandy Turynowicz Very interesting 5 stars
7/21/04 Steve Adams Very long, but worth it 5 stars
7/21/04 CY NG This is darker & tighter (directing, editing, & acting) than 1st two movies but still fun. 4 stars
7/21/04 Laura Shangraw I didn't care for it 2 stars
7/20/04 Chris They did an excellent job with this movie 5 stars
7/20/04 zimtk Finally, a Potter movie for the ages. Thank you, Mr. Cuaron, for daring to be different 5 stars
7/19/04 Jessica Gill For one that hasn't read the books, I'm glad that they went in a darker direction. 4 stars
7/17/04 legend The best Harry Potter film so far. I enjyed this one more than the first two. 4 stars
7/09/04 Diesel PPffftttt, silly. 1 stars
7/08/04 Adel Can Movie Be better ? 5 stars
7/03/04 American Slasher Goddess Even better then the previous two 5 stars
7/02/04 Haydn humphry The best ever 5 stars
7/01/04 C brilliant film and books wasted on children 5 stars
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt A good honest family film. 4 stars
6/28/04 Richard Crap! 1 stars
6/27/04 Sarah GREAT! by the way, the scar wasn't on the wrong side, it was reflected by the glass 5 stars
6/26/04 M I still dont get it!! its like a really bad sunday morning kids show with better FX 1 stars
6/26/04 Graham Funnier. Scarier. Better acted. Better filmed. Just better than the last two. 4 stars
6/25/04 Marce What? No threesome? Aww.. ;) 5 stars
6/24/04 Kathy Willis I noticed that in the scene with the boggart, Harry's scar was on wrong side 5 stars
6/24/04 Lavance nothing like the book, HOW COULD YOU LET THEM DO THIS TO YOUR BOOK Mrs. Rowling 3 stars
6/24/04 almen jess gruba Its very awesome 5 stars
6/23/04 CandyChick Great movie but i think they left to many imortant bits out 3 stars
6/23/04 Rubi Alfonso Cuaron definitly brings new things to the movie 5 stars
6/23/04 Littlepurch I didn't even like the book but film was gr8. Loved the 'Back To the Future'-esque moments! 5 stars
6/22/04 Marc Basque Better than Philosopher, but doesn't reach the thrilling excellence of Chamber. 4 stars
6/20/04 Mark good 5 stars
6/20/04 Smitty A Deus ex Machina time travel ending, but a good film otherwise with nice pacing 4 stars
6/20/04 dfcdfvdwvfrf Its not as spooky as the bk, but i must say its gr8! 5 stars
6/19/04 kir disapointing, and whats with the titanic scene? 2 stars
6/19/04 Amanda Craig *WAY* too much was cut, but the acting & scenery are very good. 4 stars
6/19/04 Ena A good movie from a good book 5 stars
6/18/04 M Boring!!!! a little boy, a magic stick, satanic rituals blah blah blah 1 stars
6/17/04 Dean Total example of a director thinking he's more important than the film 1 stars
6/17/04 alien assassin a wothy follow up to "Chamber of Secrets". Can't wait for "Goblet of Fire" 5 stars
6/16/04 Scorpix Too many elements from the book were missing. It was interesting, but not fantastic. 3 stars
6/15/04 MF Best one of the series so far. I liked it darker 5 stars
6/15/04 charlie disappointed 1 stars
6/15/04 Katrina Way too many scenes were changed oiut of proportion or skipped out completely, I hated it! 1 stars
6/15/04 Laura should have chucked a 3 1/2 lotr to keep it all in 2 stars
6/15/04 Jack Bourbon Lots of Hogwash, but entertaining in spots 4 stars
6/14/04 Nulthien Dark, alluring, haunting and chilling. Fantastic transition from book to movie. 5 stars
6/14/04 Jamie sordello very dissapointing, does not contain the spirt of Harry Potter. 2 stars
6/14/04 George 2 Babyish 1 stars
6/14/04 Sarina I didn't think it was that good. It was rather disapointing to be honest. 3 stars
6/14/04 ezrgd The change to Cuaron was perfectly timed, the series is progressing nicely 4 stars
6/14/04 asdf Better than the first two. 5 stars
6/13/04 Zefram Mann Almost perfect. They left out the part that explains why Snape is such a prick to Harry. 4 stars
6/13/04 too-much-coffee mistress Easily the best of the three. Please come back for 5, Cuaron! 5 stars
6/13/04 alberto nice - children's first film without their uniform! 3 stars
6/13/04 kate very intriguing 5 stars
6/13/04 Nancy Loved the darker, edgier tone. Funny, scary, gripping! 5 stars
6/13/04 Kooler Too long, again. Oldman shoulda been more evil. So many great actors, so little to do. 3 stars
6/13/04 Daveman Maybe I'll change my rating when my enthusiasm dies down, but damn, was I impressed? 5 stars
6/12/04 Melina haven't read the books, liked this one the best! 5 stars
6/11/04 dils this installment was by far the worst. it does not tally up with the last two movies.. 2 stars
6/11/04 eddie queener great but too short 5 stars
6/10/04 Stewart Shaw Excellent. Wish it were a weekly series 5 stars
6/10/04 Large Farve David Thewlis rocked. Best. Prof. Ever. 5 stars
6/09/04 Inga Loved it but would have loved more detail 5 stars
6/09/04 dale h excellent 5 stars
6/09/04 Eppie Black Too Much of Snape's and Lupin's subplots cut. 4 stars
6/08/04 paganchyk Could have used five more minutes to explain things, but beautiful 4 stars
6/08/04 BrianWilly Wicked funny and exciting. The darker tone and imagery is a great shift. 5 stars
6/08/04 Harryfan felt movie was rushed but still great 5 stars
6/08/04 Shoanna Dean I was the best film i'v ever seen. It was awsome, great and amazing 5 stars
6/08/04 Pemika S. Lovely to see Harry and the gangs grow up. My most favorite in the three parts 5 stars
6/08/04 CWarner Read the books & really enjoyed the movie! 5 stars
6/07/04 nick2k i liked it...then again, i'm not nitpicking since i've never touched the books. 4 stars
6/07/04 POBR25 Appeals to an older audience-best of the three so far 4 stars
6/07/04 kentsan left out MAJOR plot points, lupin's character was all wrong, where's the Quidditch Final? 1 stars
6/07/04 Lust4DetH Borefest. Ending is anti-climatic. 2 stars
6/06/04 Ty Awful, boring slow! They should fire the director, editor, and cinematographe.BLAND!!! 2 stars
6/06/04 Marjanne Catches the spirit of the book and makes the emotions much deeper. Perfect 4 stars
6/06/04 SpiritofEowyn this film lacked continuty, it made Major mistakes that any editor would cut. I hated it. 2 stars
6/06/04 bullit16 Very good, though it left out a lot of key moments and info from the book 4 stars
6/06/04 michaelb14 A little disappointing, left out some rather important plot points 3 stars
6/06/04 Rich Hermione in jeans-- at Hogworts!! 1 stars
6/06/04 Wolf Maybe it was the new Dumbledore or the puberty-voices; I'm waitng for the sequel. 3 stars
6/06/04 Captain Highcrime All that sorcery and they couldn't conjure up Roy Orbison 4 stars
6/06/04 Marce Simply magical! 5 stars
6/06/04 Chance Loved it 5 stars
6/06/04 Alex The best 4ever!!!!!! 5 stars
6/05/04 Mysterycat Too much cut out...Very choppy 3 stars
6/05/04 Tom Staight My ridiculous expectations also met! Woohoo! 5 stars
6/05/04 Harry Fan Hated the film!! Not to include the Quidditch Cup Match is a disgrace! 2 stars
6/05/04 david prigge I sometimes wonder if movie-makers actually take the time to watch the films they make 1 stars
6/05/04 Denise Worst of the 3!!! Huge disappointment, the whole story line was wrong! 1 stars
6/05/04 Christina SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES!!!!!! Its stuck in my head now, crap. 5 stars
6/05/04 FragileHalo AAAAAAH, everything was wrong and the kids got really ugly! 1 stars
6/04/04 Titus This was so very well done. 5 stars
6/03/04 Littlepurch Considering I didn't like the book, this is a fantastic adaption.LOADS left out but so wot! 5 stars
6/01/04 James Kustes This is my second favorite book next to the fifth. 5 stars
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  04-Jun-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 19-Oct-2010



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