Happy for Harry

Latest Harry Potter movie is pleasing even to the most skeptical critics

UH OH, IT’S MAGIC<br>Harry cut his skills loose on the unsuspecting Muggles of his family in the latest <i>Harry Potter</i> adventure.

Harry cut his skills loose on the unsuspecting Muggles of his family in the latest Harry Potter adventure.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Rated PG.
Rated 3.0

Well, this is perplexing. I’m seemingly the sole person in Chico who has never picked up a Harry Potter book or felt compelled to check out one of the previous film adaptations, and here I am the one left to review this entry. Obviously, this review isn’t for those who follow this phenomenon, but for any other few remaining literary Muggles such as me.

Fortunately, through cultural osmosis, I grasp the back story: Harry Potter is this twee Brit youngster who finds out that he is a budding wizard, and is shuttled off to Hogwart’s Something-or-other Academy for like talents, where he meets new friends—budding-babe Hermione and already-in-place sniveler Weasley, and thrown-in poseur-Aryan nemesis Draco Malfoy. There is a headmaster played by the always ultra-cool evil dude Alan Rickman. Any British actor with cred is either in or at least slated to appear in the series. Although the Academy is peopled (witched? wizarded?) with a multi-national stew, no one is allowed to speak unless they are British, or can fake the dialect. I’m definitely looking forward to the point at the end of the series where the cast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Young Ones serve as substitute teachers.

So…Harry Potter fans can now break out the torches and chase me to the windmill.

For non-Harry Potter fans (but Potter-curious): Can you enter this film and follow what the heck is going down, let alone enjoy it? The answer: Yes, yes you can. Actually, it might even help, lest you join the crowd of frothing villagers shrieking, “They changed the uniforms!” To those folks, I suggest sitting back and taking a deep drag of go-with-the-flow, and lighten up. It’s an adaptation. If the movie disappoints, go back and read the book. Problem solved. Film and publishing do not make a happy marriage. Sometimes a decent affair, but rarely. This one works, however.

One of the reasons I’ve never been tempted to check out the previous entries is because they were helmed by Chris (Mrs. Doubtfire) Columbus. Now, assigning the director of the ambiguously homoerotic Y Tu Mamá Tambiàn took a lot of chutzpah—credit given when due. Which of course means that the movie opens with Harry huddled under bed sheets practicing with his wand. Ahem. Anyway, later he loses his wizard cool on his Muggle guardians and has to retreat back to Hogwart’s (quick fun note: muggles was also a jazz-era term for marijuana). He also learns that the psycho (Gary Oldman) supposedly responsible for betraying his parents has escaped from prison, and wants to finish off the bloodline. And then there’s wannabe Ringwraiths and a wannabe Gollum to deal with. With all this pop-culture incest going down, I’m waiting for Hermione to end up being Harry’s sister. Followed by Headmaster Snape urging Harry to come to the Dark Side. Maybe I’ve already missed it. Where am I?