Lukewarm in Kentucky...

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Hilary the Touched
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Lukewarm in Kentucky...

Post by Hilary the Touched » Tue Nov 22, 2005 7:42 am

New "Harry Potter" film is a big disappointment

Review by Josh West

The bespectacled kid wizard returns in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" the fourth entry into the wildly popular film franchise based on J.K. Rowling's novels.

This time Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) gets inadvertently entered into the Tri-Wizard Tournament, a sort of magic Olympics between his home of Hogwarts and two other schools of magic. While competing, Harry must fight dragons, sea people, a huge hedge maze, and more than a few teenage hormones, all the while trying to uncover the mystery of who placed his name in the Goblet of Fire to become a competitor. Is this another plot to kill Harry conjured up by his nemesis Lord Voldemort? Do you really have to ask?

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is a droll, more-of-the-same entry into a series that hit a high note last time out with "Prisoner of Azkaban." That film improved by leaps and bounds the sometimes-shaky groundwork laid in the series first two films by director Chris Columbus.

"Azkaban" director Alfonso Cuaron brought a fresh, darker look to the Potter world and managed to squeeze a strong story into a tight two-hour runtime, a first for the series. With "Goblet of Fire," director Mike Newell forgoes Cuaron's progress and throws back to the more kid-friendly style of Columbus. While his style worked for the more juvenile stories of "Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets," the actors are getting older and the stories are getting darker. Newell's choice to make what is thematically the darkest Potter yet to hit the screen brighter and more kid-friendly is an odd one indeed.

Blame the film's story, which simply doesn't have the depth of any of the previous entries. There's a lot going on to be sure, but little of it has any meaning or connectivity. Grand battles with fire-breathing dragons and a heap of special effects can't make up for a lack of character development and arc progression. The only large story advancement that takes place is in the film's much-ballyhooed finale, which involves a certain Dark Lord, but the scene is poorly played and just feels wrong. And that's the overall problem with "Goblet." For far too many reasons it just doesn't work.

The actors, too, are somewhat lacking. Radcliffe strolls through as Harry, going through the motions of the story, but mostly reading lines. Rupert Grint has a few decent moments as Harry's pal Ron, but is underused and unfortunately fades into the background. Perhaps the biggest disappointment, though, is Emma Watson whose fine work as the crafty witch Hermione in "Azkaban" is undermined here by poor delivery and general misunderstanding of the character.

The supporting actors are generally good but suffer from sheer lack of anything to do. Notably wasted are Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, and Miranda Richardson, all high-caliber actors who needed more screen time to take emphasis, and pressure, off the performances of the child actors.

Overall "Goblet of Fire" is the least of the Potter films, a mixed bag that thankfully picks up a bit in its last half hour, but can't overcome the wealth of pacing troubles that weigh the first two hours down. If you're already a huge Potter fan, then seeing this one is a no-brainer, but if you've yet to get caught up in Potter-mania, this one will definitely not convert you. --JW

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