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Rated 3.71 stars
by 3270 people


ReelTalk Movie Reviews
This World Needs No Introduction
by Jeffrey Chen

Why did I enjoy Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets more than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? Okay, maybe I'm not being fair to the movie that came first, but what bothered me about Sorcerer's Stone was the way it jumped from one cool, magical element at Hogwarts to the next in its scramble to play show-and-tell for its audience. Narrative and character development seemed pushed to the side along the way. I thought its hurriedness and eagerness to please caused a noticeable lack of depth. Still, what else could the movie have done? It needed to cover a lot of ground, and could barely squeeze the whole thing into 2 1/2 hours.

Chamber of Secrets also has a lot of ground to cover, but it can afford to dispense with all the familiarizing necessary in Sorcerer's Stone. We know who Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is; we know how rotten his caretakers are; we know who his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are; we know what Hogwarts is, what kinds of classes it teaches, who the teachers are; and we know who Harry's nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), is. The movie has no need to tread old ground. It's no surprise, for instance, that the Quidditch match starts with nary an explanation -- suddenly these kids in uniforms are flying around on brooms and throwing around heavy balls, and we already know what the heck is going on.

Doing away with the formalities helps Chamber of Secrets immensely, allowing it to concentrate on unfolding its involving mystery, using the running time to pace the action and the development. New characters are given their fair screen time. Set pieces, like a flying car sequence and a wizards' duel, punctuate the sections of exposition. The audience gets breathing room and a chance to soak in what's happening. 

Most importantly, we get to watch Harry be Harry. In Sorcerer's Stone, he was the least interesting character among the film's main trio of friends. He spent most of his time looking awestruck. This time, Harry performs a good share of the work and is in full command of his posse. His team now clearly has a leader (himself), a right-hand man (Ron), and a strategist (Hermione). He is pro-active in his investigations, often going alone. And he definitely projects more attitude. 

The less-distracted flow of Chamber of Secrets also allows the tone of the Harry Potter franchise to sink in more strongly. The story pulls no punches. It features injuries, rivalries, incapacitations and death. I appreciate this -- I don't believe kids should be shielded from scariness as if it were a fatal disease. If the child can take it, he or she will be allowed to grow in new directions. That said, here's a warning to the parents: this movie contains some mildly intense scenes of danger and fright. Hopefully, neither you nor your kids are afraid of spiders.

I was able to kick back and thoroughly enjoy Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It probably helps that, this time, I didn't read the book beforehand and spend my time comparing and contrasting the book and the film in my head. I could allow myself to be engrossed in the magic of the story and the fantastic world it occupies. 

P.S. Be sure to sit through the credits for one final laugh.

(Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.)

Released by Warner Bros. and rated PG for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language.


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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