Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

on November 15, 2002 by Cathy Thompson-Georges
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A sequel better than the original--and better than the book on which it's based? It must be magic! And indeed, the second "Harry Potter" movie is enchanting. Realizing that by now everyone in the known universe knows who Harry and his cohorts are, director Chris Columbus launches us right into Harry's second year at Hogwarts without tiresome exposition and back-story. In spite of "Chamber of Secrets" hefty running time, it barrels along like the Hogwarts express. Harry is embroiled in an eerier mystery than in "Sorcerer's Stone"--the bad guys are badder, with a nasty undercurrent of racism against non-magical Muggles (i.e., you and me) and their wizarding offspring. While the novel spent a lot of time on labored parody of the cult of celebrity, the movie wisely avoids this and focuses on the Chamber, its dreadful occupant, and the adventures of the characters as they try to unravel the secret.

We see even more of the exquisitely realized Harry Potter universe in this outing: best friend Ron Weasley's family's topsy-turvy home, headmaster Dumbledore's study, and every conceivable nook of the Hogwarts castle are explored. The spectacular set pieces--the flying car, Moaning Myrtle's lavatory haunt, and the Chamber itself--serve not just as gee-whiz moments, but enhance the mood of the film beautifully. Most of the characters are returning from the first film--and a delight it is to see them, from Richard Harris' magisterial Dumbledore to Daniel Radcliffe's more assured Harry. Kenneth Branagh is a splendid addition, all-too-perfectly cast as the preening Gilderoy Lockhart.

Are there nits to be picked? Some of the juvenile performers are still a little shaky. But perhaps the only real problem with "Chamber of Secrets" is that it leaves us all too impatient for the next installment, a long, long year away. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh and Maggie Smith. Directed by Chris Columbus. Written by Steven Kloves. Produced by David Heyman. A Warner Bros. release. Fantasy/Adventure. Rated PG for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language. Running time: 160 min

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