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Disclaimer: I have not actually seen this movie. In fact, with it bearing less and less resemblance to the work of J. K. Rowling the more I learn about it, it becomes increasingly unlikely that I'm ever going to. This review is extrapolated from the observation that the reviews of Prisoner of Azkaban that I read were almost identical to the reviews of Chamber of Secrets. It seems that we only need to change a few details, plug them into the generic review, and...
Director: Mike Newell
Running time: 157 minutes
In his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe)'s life is suddenly taking a grim and serious turn. No more innocent brewing potions in the girls' bathroom or chasing werewolves around in the middle of the night-- Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), He Who Must Not Be Named, is returning to the power with the aid of his Nazi-like servants.
Director Mike Newell's adaptation avoids slavish devotion to accuracy, instead weaving a compelling visual fantasy populated with dragons, mermaids, and the other stuff with funny names that this reviewer can't be bothered to remember. No expense has been spared to render them with wonderful lifelike detail as they participate in huge and expensive set-pieces.
There are some actors in this movie too, including Alan Rickman as the dastardly Professor Snape and Michael Gambon as the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. By an extraordinary coincidence, all of the child actors are getting older with each successive movie, just as their characters are.
This reviewer personally doesn't "get" fantasy, but, if you're into that sort of thing, it's an entertaining family film which you will be obligated to drag your children to this holiday season.
If you can find a review that says something substantially different from this, I'd like to read it.
Director: Tim Burton
Running time: 106 minutes
Tim Burton promised that this time, the movie was going to be faithful to the book. I've always tended to give Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory a pass because, first, Roald Dahl wrote the script, and second, we all know by now what assurances by directors that they're going to be faithful to the book really mean, right?
Well, I'll give him a few points. For instance, the original lyrics to the Oompa Loompas' songs have been restored and set to music by Danny Elfman. The set-pieces that result are by far the best parts of the movie, even if the makers felt compelled to take the air out of the first one with a now-traditional meta-ironic poke in the eye. The nut-sorting, rioting squirrels, presumably replaced in the first adaptation because they were beyond the capability of effects of the day, are back. Modern effects also give us a much better Great Glass Elevator.
On the other hand: the Oompa Loompas (all played by Deep Roy) still look wrong, Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) has been transformed from an ebullient inventor to a pale, shy, lipstick-wearing hypochondriac who Depp has been swearing up and down is not in any way intended to look precisely like Michael Jackson, and let's not even talk about the ghastly things that happen to the ending. No, on second thought, let's talk about it-- it might keep someone from buying the DVD. Okay, throughout the movie we're given glimpses of Willy Wonka's deprived childhood as the son of a dentist who absolutely forbids him to eat any candy. Little Willy (Blair Dunlop) eventually runs away to become a candymaker, never speaking to his father again until the day that Charlie (Freddie Highmore) wins the contest and shames him into going back home. Oh, and Charlie doesn't want the factory, and his family doesn't want to move there anyway.
I don't imagine Roald Dahl enjoyed having to compromise on adapting his own book, but his involvement caused a better movie. At least, the way the ending's been mangled this time, there's no chance of Burton working in an adaptation of the sequel.