Oh dear--Box Office Mojo inimpressed with Goblet

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Hilary the Touched
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Oh dear--Box Office Mojo inimpressed with Goblet

Post by Hilary the Touched » Fri Nov 18, 2005 8:26 am


In Part Four, Potter Remains Murky
by Scott Holleran

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a step down in the series, failing to define the title character and portending less engaging versions in the future. British director Mike Newell's (Mona Lisa Smile) deliberate approach is a welcome break from the usual slam-bang mayhem for the first third of the movie—but, with a grinding plot and passive protagonist, this year's Hogwarts lessons are awfully thin.

Writer Steven Kloves does what he can with J.K. Rowling's dark novel—itself met by mixed reviews—which returns to the adventures of young master magician Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Missing this time is a visit to Potter's house and the usual sparring with his family. Also absent: a strong sense of conflict.

In previous pictures, especially Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in which Potter discovered the virtue of independence, there was the anticipation that the character would grow into himself. By the fourth installment, one expects greater advancement—the appearance of a pre-adult personality—but gets more of the same: the quiet, smart kid with glasses to whom things generally happen. It's as if Prisoner of Azkaban's dramatic story, with Sirius Black taking over as mentor, did not happen. Despite the credits, Gary Oldman as Sirius appears briefly in voiceover trickery.

Plugging Rowling's routine—introduction of a mysterious Hogwarts faculty member, a concrete goal (here, a competition to obtain a wizards' cup) and clues about what happened to Harry Potter's parents—into old and new characters, it chugs slowly along like a petering Hogwarts Express, though the story kicks off with an exciting Olympics-type Quidditch championship. The contest's triple-grail trajectory pauses for what commences as a graceful ballroom dance scene (and gives way to bland radio rock), showing that Hermione's still smarter than the other two. This all happens amid new and various bedknobs and broomsticks.

They clatter and clang and ring hollow, showcasing Rowling's wares with perfunctory movements, transitions and action. When archvillain Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), rumored to be lurking about, finally faces Potter, it is markedly late in the game. The problem, primarily, is Potter; because he is mostly reactive, Goblet of Fire asks one to take his magic on faith, making the match against Voldemort blasé.

With the magic fading, and with the old saw about his legendary promise growing repetitious, it comes off as another horror movie for kids, a sort of Lord of the Rings for Halloween. It may have always seemed thus to some, but, for those holding out for live action fun laced with Sword in the Stone mythology, and more trustworthy sidekicks, it is disappointing.

Even Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) slips into a slouch, badmouthing heroism and shepherding Potter through the latest dangers with a slovenly, detached demeanor. Brendan Gleeson and Miranda Richardson step in as quirky new characters, while regulars dutifully earn their keep: Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane. Sweet Katie Leung plays a perky witch who is Potter's romantic interest.

Visually dark (and, often, grotesque) and lacking thrills during its confrontational climax, which occurs in a labyrinth, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire unfolds by the numbers. Though Potter learns about honor with a rival, it is a paltry payoff, and, four stories into this seven-part series, Harry Potter remains a pleasant, bright kid who lost his parents—staying murky just when he ought to come into focus.

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