Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 11/26/01 21:20:18

"You're a movie of the week. You're a fucking T-shirt."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Q: How do you convince a ten year old to change a light bulb? A: Tell him that everyone else is doing it. There's always something a little disappointing about discovering the kids have flocked to something new. It wouldn't be so bad if they cared about substance, but the kids are just sheep, man - always have been, always will be. We let the Strawberry Shortcake and Rubiks Cube fads slide, because hey, kids will be kids, and they need something to keep them busy between the bi-yearly yo-yo booms. But when they found a new craze that had their parents knocking each other's teeth out for Cabbage Patch Kids, we hoped it was just a phase. But then they went nuts for the talentless Spice Girls, and all we could do was try our best to ignore it and move on. We managed as best we could for a while, but when they began to empty their parents' bank accounts trying to get rich on baseball cards, we all knew that the kids would soon forget about the $3,000 Goose Goslin rookie card in the bottom drawer and find something new, something no doubt expensive. Sure enough it wasn't long before they were all clambering after Dinosaurs. Then the dinosaurs were suddenly dead and Pokemon cards were not only huge overnight, but every kid in the land was telling us that this wasn't a craze, that it would be around forever. Of course, it wasn't, it disappeared within months and so we now come to Harry Potter.

Parents are happy because little Timmy has stopped imitating The Rock by ramming his sister through the coffee table and finally picked up a book. Christians are unhappy because Harry works the dark craft. And, of course, at the peak of this latest tweenie craze, Hollywood is ecstatic, because just as they did with the Spicegirls and Pokemon and dinosaurs, the studios sniffed this one out early enough to crank out a movie about it, and the kids are going in droves.

Well, it may have earned a fortune in its opening week, but I'm not going to pay this craze any further respect than I pay those baseball card collectors of the past, many of whom have never even been to a game, and most of which haven't looked at a card for about three years now.

Harry Potter is a fad. It's the Where The Wild Things Are of the new millenium, it is to books what New Kids on the Block was to music, or Leonardo DiCaprio was to long-lasting film careers.

But it won't be around for long. And this film will not propagate the craze in any way - in fact, by my reckoning Hollywood has got one more of these films left in them before the whole franchise comes crashing down around their ears like a house of Magic: The Gathering cards.

You see, the movie just isn't very good. Sure, it's okay, it treads water without going under very often, but it's just not great. It's not a franchise-builder, it's a flash in a very expensive pan.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone follows young Harry from his dull life living under the stairs to his new path of learning how to become a wizard. Along the way he encounters all manner of monsters and villains and bratty school kids and we're all supposed to chortle along and think "shucks, that Harry is a good guy!"

Well, hoorah. Come on people, the story is just this side of plagiaristic, every element of the tale has been swiped from dungeons and dragons or popular folklore or any number of boring action/adventures. Sitting through the game of Quiddich (don't even bother correcting my spelling, Potterites) made me hark back to terrible memories of sitting through Star Wars Episode One, quite possibly the worst sports movie ever filmed. We don't go to movies to watch sports, if for no other reason that we always know how sports movies will end.


Sur-prise, sur-prise.

JT Rowlings (and everyone else with a finger in this pie) is lucky the film was made today, in a time when computer effects can create a world that the director seems incapable of conjuring through atmosphere, because this story without any computer wizardry would have been monotonous in the extreme. The child actors are serviceable enough, though they all seem to have an element of 1950's British TV characters to them. The whole thing is very Famous Five, and you half expect Biggles to fly through giving the Gerrys what for.

Stand-out of the bunch is Alan Rickman, who takes looking confused to an absolute art-form. Boy, even that man's teeth have a personality. As the dastardly Snape, Rickman is a whole other level of talent compared to anyone else in this entire ensemble flick (with the exception of Robbie Coltrane, who is as watchable as ever, despite being in a giant suit).

The effects are, admittedly, quite grand. But quite frankly, I didn't go to the movie to see what a computer can do if enough cash is jammed into the floppy drive, I went to the movie to see a damn good story be told and to be entertained with laughs and thrills and have a rollicking good time. I should have gone to see Heist.

As a movie, and that's what movies are judged as, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone is crap. A heavy reliance on special effects and a determination to stick to the printed page no matter what bring the whole thing down into a two and a half hour morass of "yes, we know, get on with it."

The kids, on the other hand, will love it. But then... they watch POKEMON CARTOONS BY CHOICE!

When X-Men was released it introduced a new swathe of potential readers to a great comic, because it was a genuinely good film. On the other hand, I fear that Harry Potter won't turn one moviegoer into a book reader, for no other reasons than it's boring and long and uninspiring and unrewarding. The kids will say it's great, but trust me, they're on the look-out for the next fad. It's coming... I can smell it.

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