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Friday, December 2, 2005

REEL REVIEWS: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) ***

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) poster

rated PG-13 (for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.)
2 hrs. 30 min.

novel by J.K. Rowling
screenplay by Steven Kloves
produced by David Heyman
directed by Mike Newell

Year four at Hogwarts finds the now adolescent Harry competing in the Triwizard Championship or some such nonsense. Fans of J.K. Rowling's books no doubt know exactly what happens and will only find fault in whatever description I come up with and the rest of us don't really care. At any rate, as a movie, Goblet of Fire is a step backward from Alfonso Cuaron's work on Prisoner of Azkaban. Mike Newell takes over as director and he does a fine, if uninspired job.

The Goblet of Fire judges who gets in and who doesn't. On that fateful night, three champions names are spit out of the goblet and read by Dumbledore. But then the Goblet spits out one other....Harry's. These two major events point to the return of Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore and the other teachers sense it, but it is inevitable. It would appear Harry is no longer safe at Hogwarts. This fourth installment tries to be the most dramatic, and also the scariest. It does a great job in setting mood and all but does not flesh out enough details in the mystery surrounding Voldemoort f or me to get too concerned for Harry.

In the beginning of the movie, at the Quidditch World Cup, Voldemort's followers gather and wreak havoc. Then, at Hogwarts, a legendary event takes place....the Triwizard Tournament! The cool thing about the Triwizard Tournament is that here we are introduced to student representatives from three different wizarding schools. They all compete in a series of increasingly challenging contests such as stealing a golden egg from a dragon, rescuing friends from underwater doom, and a foliage labyrinth that makes Nicholson's demise in The Shining look tame.

Seeing all the different students was refreshing. Not the I've gotten tired of Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emily Watson) and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) but it's kinda like meeting a foreign exchange student for the first time. You read about the country but never really met anyone from there much less thought that you ever would. Remember that? Well, here some of the stand out "foreigners" are Durmstrang's Institute's Quidditch superstar Victor Krum, (Stanilsav Ianevski) followed by Beauxbatons' Academy exquisite Fleur Delacour (Clemence Posey) and finally, Hogwarts' popular all-around golden boy Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson). All three of these kids also are also chosen by the Goblet and must compete with Harry.

This is the first Potter film where we see signs of sparking pre-teen hormones and all that that brings. In an effort to build community and diversity, Hogwart's throws a high school dan-uh, er....a Yule Ball. Harry admits to Ron that it's easier to fight a fire-breathing dragon that find a girl to ask to the ball. There are some great "teen character" scenes here. Like when Hermione tells run to grow a pair cuz he didn't have the courage to come out and ask her to the bloody ball. As well as the awkwardness of seeing Harry dance with his date while eyeing the gal he really likes, Cho Chang (Katie Leung). These moments actually bring some great development to these familiar characters but it takes away from what's supposed to be the mystery of the film.
Indeed, concern of rumors of some nefarious plot against Hogwart's form the evil Voldemoort looms. So much that Dumbledore asks Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, the eccentric new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, to keep his magical eye trained on the teenage wizard. Moody (the great Brendan Gleeson) is quite an eccentric character looking like a mad pirate and acting like that uncle that everyone's embarrassed by at holidays. But should we really fear for the safety of these characters? I mean there's what, six books and from those this is the fourth movie? Hmmm.

So, compared to Azkaban, Goblet is visually pretty flat. Oh sure there are wonderful special effects to look to it but it just didn't capture me as Azkaban did. It's just the pace of the movie seemed off to me, somehow. None of these Potter movies are notable for their brevity but the movie seemed excessively long to me. And yeah, I know it's a long book but if the movie feels long, that means they could have cut even more of it. And with each movie, I'm more and more convinced that Rupert Grint, the redheaded moptop who plays Ron, is the only one of these young actors with a wizard's chance in Hollywood of having any kind of "post-Potter" acting career.

Still, Goblet of Fire is fairly entertaining and has at least a handful of fun and impressive sequences. I give it the rating I did mainly because of the fine cast of actors and characters that these films have been able to maintain. Plus, as near as I can tell, most of my complaints with this series are complaints with the source material and not the films themselves. But that still makes this the least satisfying of the Potter films since Chamber of Secrets.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) big teaser

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