Film review: 'Chamber of Secrets' opens to reveal strong Potter sequel

    His voice is deeper, he’s (supposedly) more mature and he’s back. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), the four-eyed sweetheart, has returned to the big screen and this time he’s ready to kick some bad-guy booty in the gem of a film, “”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.””

    Courtesy of Warner Brothers

    Those who dismiss J.K. Rowling’s “”Harry Potter”” series as being simply for kids severely misunderstand the draw of these films on children and adults alike. The newest installment in the “”Harry Potter”” film series will win hearts, widen eyes and make you leap with excitement. It may seem far-fetched that a PG-rated children’s movie could accomplish so much, but surprisingly, it does.

    In “”The Chamber of Secrets,”” we find our dear wizard Harry returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (not without much difficulty), only to find that what should be his refuge from the horrible “”muggle”” world has been besieged by an unknown menace who threatens to take innocent lives. So what is there to be done but for Harry and his trusty friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) to use their sleuthing and magical skills to overcome the horror that threatens them all? As daunting of a task as it is, all three vital roles were played to near perfection by the young actors.

    Radcliffe, a veteran actor despite his 13 years, is very convincing as the self-confident yet equally frightened Harry, and Watson is much more believable in her role as Hermione compared to their characters in the first film. In one particular scene, Watson is especially commendable in portraying Hermione’s distress and hurt when her red, watery eyes evoke sniffles from even the hardest of hearts. As opposed to the first film, where the actors seemed like novices because of their sometimes forced performances, this time Radcliffe and Watson fit into their roles as confused preteen wizards quite well.

    “”I feel a lot more relaxed and can have a really good time,”” said Watson about her performance. “”I’ve definitely improved as an actress and feel happier with what I’m doing on-screen.””

    A most outstanding performance, however, is delivered by Grint, as the perpetually frightened, wise cracking, red-haired Ron Weasley. Grint steps into Ron’s shoes perfectly, portraying the silly young man through his amazingly meaningful physical expressions. From his worried, frowning face to his humorously squeaking voice, Grint looks to be a very promising actor with great skill (even if he is 14 years old).

    The adult cast of the film, including huge stars such as Kenneth Branagh (famous for his role as “”Hamlet””) as Gilderoy Lockhart and Jason Isaacs (you may remember him as the bad guy in “”The Patriot”” or “”Black Hawk Down””) as Lucius Malfoy, all deliver convincing performances, whether they are narcissistic frauds or insidiously evil, dark wizards. From Albus Dumbledore (the recently deceased Richard Harris) as the headmaster to Mrs. Weasley, all the characters have unique personalities, which seem surprisingly well-developed.

    In comparison to the first film, which merely introduces audiences to the world of magic, “”Chamber of Secrets”” succeeds in showing an alternate reality of limitless possibilities and grim histories with the amazing use of special effects in both the scenery and in the depiction of magical creatures (from spiders to birds to monstrous snakes). Whether it is the expansive grounds of Hogwarts or the quaint Weasley house, the settings are consistently believable, if not realistic. But these cheery prospects differ from the actual Chamber of Secrets, which is despairingly dark and intimidating.

    For those of you who can’t sit through a film unless there are explosions and violence, this film is not lacking in either of those departments. Although this film primarily targets children, the dueling scenes and battle sequences are not without attraction for adults with short attention spans. Even the most skeptical of persons will find themselves jumping out of their seats at some point.

    Director Chris Columbus stated that his goal was “”to transport people to a place they’ve never been before, but at the same time, make certain that they absolutely believe what they are seeing.”” And up until the last second of the film, this purpose is met.

    Despite its preposterous story and plot, nothing in the film is utterly outrageous. It reflects what many young hearts dream about, while at the same time makes it believable. At no point is the movie overwhelmingly over the top. The people, emotions and settings are convincing and all help in making “”Chamber of Secrets”” a must-see for any true fan of the active imagination.

    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

    ****

    Starring Daniel Radcliffe

    In theaters Nov. 15

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