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A.J.'s Rating:  3.5 Spellbound Stars
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Directed By:  Chris Columbus
Written By:  J.K. Rowling (novel), Steven Kloves
Starring:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis,
Richard Harris, Ian Hart, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Zoe Wanamaker
Rated:  PG (Scary Wizardry)
Running Time:  152 Min.
     Harry Potter.  Is there anyone on the planet who hasn't heard of this kid?  Based on the first installment of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series of fantasy literature, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone grandly introduces the young wizard-in-training to movie audiences across the globe.  Not since another wizard, the one from Oz, has there been such a flurry of anticipation concerning the filmed version of a beloved family book series.  The difference is that, while Dorothy and Toto were only off to see the wizard, our Harry Potter is off to BE the wizard!
    Now, I must admit that I have not read any of the Harry Potter books, and only knew of this character through the extraordinary amount of publicity surrounding the series and film.  In other words, I was feeling a bit left out of the Harry Potter 'loop'.  So, in a momentary lapse of good judgement, I decided to take a crash-course in wizardly fandom by seeking out the ultimate Harry Potter movie experience...  the very first saturday afternoon showing at the local megaplex. 
    No internet-acquired advance ticket for me, no sir!  I simply showed up and got in line, and yes, I was just asking for trouble.  The line moved ever so slowly toward the main entrance, while frenzied children, many decked in their very own wizard garb, swarmed and bobbed in, out and around the line as their harried parents attempted to keep them in sight.  Were these the same kids who possessed the attention-span necessary to actually read a book, much less sit still through a two and a half hour movie?!  I would soon find out.  Upon reaching the box office, I purchased my ticket and was directed to, yes, you guessed it- an even longer line which was forming near the theatre's entrance.  Once in this new line, the theatre manager, whom I'll call 'Skippy', skipped up to inform us that we were all lined up in the wrong place.  After shifting everyone an entire six feet from where we were before, Skippy seemed satisfied and disappeared back into the theatre.
    I carefully weighed the merits of standing in this line, as compared to those of standing in line at the snack bar instead.  Unlike the ticket line, it was apparent that this one wasn't going anywhere for a while.  The sobering thought of shelling out another eight bucks for a watered-down Coke and stale popcorn with two pumps of a mysterious butter-like substance brought me back to reality.  So, there I was for twenty minutes, wedged between a bright but motor-mouthed young Potter fan and a hapless father hoping to save an entire row of seats for the guests of a birthday party, not one of whom had yet arrived.  If all else failed, at least I knew THAT was going to be fun to watch! 
    After a wait that no gentle wave of a magic wand could shorten, the usher began to remove the ribbon-like barrier which separated fans from film, only to replace it again as Skippy frantically signalled that it was still too soon!  I was really beginning to dislike Skippy.  Five minutes later, the theatre was finally deemed suitable for human occupancy as Skippy himself opened the doors.  Horrah! 
    Once inside, the scattered mutterings of 'Where do you want to sit?' could be heard from various parents.  Have you ever asked little kids where they want to sit at the movies?  Imagine eighty kids being asked that, with seats being filled as fast as they can change their minds.  The result... madcap merriment!
    After it seemed that every seat had been taken, the lights dimmed and a parade of preview trailers began.  Highlights included another intriguing Lord of the Rings spot, Jimmy Neutron, a computer cartoon which appears to suffer from really bad lip-sync, and the second preview trailer for Star Wars: Episode II:  Attack of the Cheesy Title, er, I mean Clones.  The Star Wars spot was an actual movie preview, you know, the kind that gives away at least half of the plotline, and I'm labeling it the 'Love Stinks' trailer.  Featured were tender moments between Anakin and Amidala, Jedi training that forbids Anakin from following his more carnal emotions, Anakin letting his hormones do the thinking, having them denied and finally vowing to become 'the most powerful Jedi ever!'.  Oh, and there's a really big war at the end.  Makes me wonder if there's a cameo appearance for Ben Affleck, as well.  Anyway, the good news is that there was still no sign of Jar-Jar Binks.  You can be sure that he's in the movie, but at least there appear to be scenes that do not include his lame antics.
    After the trailers, the lights dimmed further and the film started to a galore of tiny 'shoosh'-ing sounds for everyone to be quiet.  Two and a half hours later the movie was over, the audience applauded in mass approval, and I left the theatre happy and proud to have survived my first Harry Potter event experience. 
    That experience proved to be slightly baffling, somewhat annoying, surprisingly frightening and splendidly entertaining.  The same can be said for the movie itself!   Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is certain to become a classic.  It's wicked fun for the whole family.
    For those who seek a less detailed review:  I also thought the movie was a bit too long and the special effects were mediocre at best.  In addition, the story consisted of about twenty minutes of actual plot, interrupted by many cool  'slice-of-wizard-school-life' scenes that had little to do with advancing the story.  I am told that the books have a similar structure, so score one for faithful adaptation!  As far as acting is concerned, the entire cast was fantastic.  Especially impressive were Robbie Coletrane as Gamekeeper Hagrid, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger and Daniel Radcliffe as the famous Harry Potter himself.  Next up, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!  (sounds spooky!)

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Review published
November 17, 2001
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