Movie Review: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

ImageThe kid looks bored. Two movies into the lifeless Harry Potter franchise, and wee mop top Danny Radcliffe’s looks of perpetual surprise and delight and fear have blended into one long grimace. Can you hear the “How much are they paying us, mummy?” whispers through his perfect gritted teeth in every scene? I can.

Stuck on a set for years on end with Chris (Home Alone) Columbus will do that to a boy. Columbus lumbers through another tedious Pottering with all urgency of a vomited slug — a Survivor gag in the movie — and all the imagination his special effects team can lend him.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that team makes an old car fly, kiddie wizards zip about on souped-up brooms and a gargantuan spider talk, but not really. The spider’s in a dark corner. All that money for menace, and they couldn’t make his lips move.

In the dark? So was I. Unlike the first Potter, this one — having to do with Harry’s backstory and a little semi-ancient history at the Hogwarts School — requires the viewer to read the book first. Despite an adaptation style that leans toward the literal — surely every page in J.K. Rowling’s book appears in these two hours and 41 minutes — Columbus loses the thread of what the goings-on here have to do with Harry’s past and his future, his destiny as the uber wizard, something proclaimed by his birth.

Yes, it’s a very English view of how one gets ahead in the world. You’re born to greatness. You don’t earn it.

There’s this dreadfully unfunny computer-animated elf, dull walk-ons by very funny chaps like John Cleese and a not-quite-amusing turn by the great Kenneth Branagh as a blowhard celebrity fop wizard.

It’s not all bad. But there are wasted, senseless scenes of characters about to head to the Quidditch pitch for a game that doesn’t happen and time-eating speeches about how “This could mean the end of Hogwarts” (Crikey, again?). And all of this is in a mad tumble of a tale that sends Harry and pals in search of some new dark corner of Hogwarts.

Yes, it’s the same movie as Harry Potter the First. The very same, save for the flying car. That they stole from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Not to be a killjoy, but if Radcliffe’s bored with these things already, he should try watching it from my seat.

At least kids will read the book. They’ll have to.

MPAA Rating:PG for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Griffiths, Julie Walters

Credits: Directed by Chris Columbus, scripted by Steve Kloves, based on the J.K. Rowling novel. A Warner Brothers release.

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