- Harry Potter: A Report Card
On the film adaptation of the book "Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone:"
we have seen how, in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy, Hollywood
producers have veered away from realism and more thoughtful fare to
concentrate instead on fantasy and light comedy. We have seen how J.K.
Rowlings' successful series, about a young boy training to be a wizard, is
considered prime candidate for such a transformation.
What follows is a breakdown of the various elements of the resulting
picture, evaluated accordingly:
The film's studio, Warner Brothers, has spared no expense in promoting the
film to high heavens, taking full advantage of the book's near-omnipresence
to crank out spin-off merchandise--dolls, magic toys, "Harry Potter" fashion
accessories, etc., etc. Already the studio has boasted of the film's
breaking box-office records for highest opening, fastest-growing receipts,
In terms of marketing and publicity, the studio is granted a full fifty
points for a final score of "A+"--with a warning that said score does not in
any way contribute to the picture's final grade at the end of this report
(For a full explication of this policy, please refer to Appendix G of the
"Scoring Procedures and Policy" Manual, entitled "Boxoffice Means Nada To
J.K. Rowlings' book, which the evaluator has not read, enjoys great
popularity, and judging from what can be seen onscreen, one can guess why.
Rowlings presents a boy living under hard circumstances--his parents lost,
his own self oppressed by an uncaring aunt and uncle--rising to the position
of most promising student in a school for wizardry. The image evokes
everything from Tolkien (with his humble young Hobbit who discovers the One
Ring) to C.S. Lewis (children becoming princes and princesses) in popular
fantasy, with Rowlings emphasizing along the way loyalty to one's friends
(Tolkien began his famous trilogy with "The Fellowship of the Ring"). She
draws from potent sources, apparently, and proof positive of this is the
millions she has enthralled with her brew.
Fifty points for the story, with fifteen points held in reserve, as the
original novel remains unread, for a final grade of "B+" (those who protest
the unfairness of this verdict ("it's not the film's fault that you haven't
read the book!") should read Appendix H of the Manual, entitled "A Movie
Should Stand On Its Own Two Feet").
The actors--Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson deserve high
praise for being able to distinguish themselves from the surrounding special
effects (Watson, apparently, has long, curly hair). Radcliffe should be
singled out for his honest portrayal of Potter, his ability to charm without
trying too hard, and his winning reserve. The supporting cast--which
includes Ian Hart, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Maggie
Smith and, above all, Alan Rickman with his incurably warped sneer--deserve
even higher praise for the much-needed color they lend to the proceedings.
Thirty-five points, for a final grade of "B+."
Chris Columbus, who operates under the considerable handicap of thirty
negative points for writing "Home Alone," "Goonies" and "Young Sherlock
Holmes;" for directing "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Stepmom," and "Bicentennial Man,"
for writing AND directing the odious "Nine Months" (Mr. Columbus would have
had a negative score by now, had he not been granted points for writing the
two "Gremlins" movies), does a remarkable job of not wrecking the Rowlings
novel irreparably. "Not committing an irreparable blunder" can also be an
achievement, especially in the context of alleged "filmmaker's" career (for
a full explanation and irreproachable proof, please see any of the above).
Columbus realized the gold he held in his hand, and treated it with proper
respect; for this much he is awarded a full five points, for a final grade
of C- (those who argue "a director should be judged for his work at hand
instead of past "mistakes" (to put the matter kindly)!" should refer to
Appendix I of the Manual: "Nobody Has Seen The Bad Movies I've Seen").
The Special Effects:
For basically giving the film's magic an undistinguished look, for staging a
game of "Quiddich"--essentially a game of rugby played on flying
broomsticks--like a "Phantom Menace" pod race, where the camera basically
follows the character as he goes through the usual roller-coaster loops and
spins (a pity, because the game of Quiddich features some fairly witty and
eccentric rules), the special effects of the picture are penalized forty
points for a final grade of "D."
The Music Score:
From so-called composer John Williams, the score is loud and obtrusive and
covers the film from end to end like cheap wallpaper. It signals "SCARY!"
when Potter enters some eerie section of Hogwart Castle, signals "FUNNY!"
when we are shown some shenanigans with a Troll, and "MOVING!" every time
Potter sees his dead parents. Williams should be banned from all
productions in the near future and condemned to watching Dogme 95 films for
instruction as to the proper use of music in a movie. Fifty points
deduction, for a final grade of "F."
Adding up the scores from all elements, we have�but who's counting? Final
grade is "C," which can be interpreted as: "not bad, could be better, get a
real filmmaker--Tim Burton, Jeunet and Caro, or even Steven Spielberg--for
the sequel" (those who dispute this grade are referred to Appendix J of the
Manual, "The Critic Is Always Right Within the Confines of His Article").
(Comments? Email me at noelbotevera@...)
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