Flying on the ground
The new Harry Potter installment is too long and bogged down
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets—lamentably, regrettably, unfortunately—is a film that disappoints slowly. Two hours and 45 minutes slow.
That judgment comes with bite for viewers like this critic, who loved the books and had appetites whetted by last year’s promising if similarly flat Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Alas, maybe the third time, with 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, will be the charm.
For the uninitiated, Secrets takes up with boy wizard Potter several months after the first film as he begins his second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The new year finds the halls stalked by a mysterious evil petrifying lone students where they stand. Unfortunately, it also seems to be stilling the energy of Chamber with them.
While stars David Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as pals Harry, Hermione and Ron have added to their acting chops since debuting in Stone, their efforts are ground down by the spectacularly listless direction by Chris Columbus.
Watching Potter author J. K. Rowling’s astounding world through Columbus’ lens is like seeing J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as a 1950s Army film crew would have made it. The characters are there, they look right, they’re saying the lines, but the finished effect is flat. Flat enough for government work.
Like Stone, Chamber is deflated by its own adherence to Rowling’s carefully interlocking vision. Scenes that chill or hum on the page pale on screen. The entire middle hour and a half is peppered with some variation of “If that’s true Harry, then…” or “If what Hermione wrote is right, then…” It’s almost as if Columbus has ordered screenwriter Steven Kloves to explain everything before we see it.
The characters talk the magic out of the film. And, given the amazing sets, the dazzling effects, the rich acting talent involved (chiefly the late Richard Harris), that’s no small trick. Here’s hoping we don’t see it again.