June 8, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Capsule Review)

Visually stunning and sometimes rushed, this third Harry Potter movie adventure had me asking a question that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Maybe these books weren’t meant to be made into films.

For this third outing, the kids are older, the images are more frightening (judging by my kids’ reactions) and feeling is decidedly more gothic, including silent-movie-like scene transitions.

But invariably these films must strive not to leave out details the fans want and must reach out to an audience beyond the readers of the series. I’m not sure this film successfully makes the cut on either of those counts.

Fans know the story. Harry returns to Hogwarts this time with a murderer on his trail, the notorious Sirius Black. His inevitable encounter with Black will forever change him and reveal surprises about his past. A new Defense Against The Dark Arts professor will befriend him. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

What’s missing is any connection with the characters, or any tension about what might happen. The pace is all off, with things either happening too slowly or too fast. And with all the magic, there ought to be a sense of wonder. But, somehow between the book and the script, that sense of wonder has disapparated.

If you’re not a fan of the books, you have no reason to see this film. If you are a fan, maybe you want to see menacing dementors as I did. Their wraith-like visage did not disappoint, but it doesn’t carry the film. And the performances of the main characters cannot be blamed, as Harry and Hermione were both well-acted. Ron added a measure of humor that was sorely needed, however the age of these kids is beginning to outstrip their behavior.

Aside from a couple of bright moments, this movie is pretty much forgettable.

Choosing to see this film over Shrek 2 would be a huge mistake in my book.

(Yes, I know I didn’t review Shrek 2. Oddly, I never reviewed the first Shrek either. If you need to know, I thought Shrek 2 it was a to of fun and almost as good as the original. Definitely worth your time.)

Posted by James at June 8, 2004 9:15 AM
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