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1 item from 2004

Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban

12 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The third time's definitely the charm for the highly successful Harry Potter film franchise.

Thanks to the revitalizing imprint of Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuaron, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a deeper, darker, visually arresting and more emotionally satisfying adaptation of the J.K. Rowling literary phenomenon, achieving the neat trick of remaining faithful to the spirit of the book while at the same time being true to its cinematic self.

Where the first two Potters were efficiently if uninspiredly directed by an eager-to-please Chris Columbus, Cuaron has crafted a rich, atmospheric stand-alone motion picture rather than simply a filmed adaptation.

Rising to the occasion is series screenwriter Steven Kloves, who hasn't yielded to the book's murkier impulses, and its resident ensemble, which has been joined this time around by Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall and, smoothly assuming the role originated by the late Richard Harris, Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore.

You don't need to be a wizard to predict huge numbers for the Warner Bros. picture, which will be given an added boost with a simultaneous release in Imax theaters.

While Cuaron may at first seem an odd choice, the third Potter actually shares a few things in common with the racy Y Tu Mama, most notably -- given its rapidly maturing young cast -- a prevailing rites of passage theme, not to mention personal identity issues.

Moreover, Cuaron also directed 1995's A Little Princess, a highly regarded adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel (also set in a boarding school), which just happened to be one of Rowling's favorite films.

At 13, Daniel Radcliffe's Harry has become a more assertive, angrier young man whose bouts of unmistakably adolescent indignation are very much in evidence here, Hogwarts and all.

Despite promising not to perform any wizardry while spending another summer with the Dursleys, Harry breaks down and, in a fit of annoyance, turns his obnoxious Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris) into a literal airbag, her grotesquely inflated form sent drifting into the night skies.

Fearing reprimands from his relatives, as well as from Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, Harry runs off but doesn't get too far before he's picked up by the very purple, triple-decker Knight Bus, which takes him on a wild trip that recalls Terry Gilliam's wacky animated sequences from his Monty Python days.

It turns out that Harry isn't punished for the deed, but he faces more dire consequences with news that Sirius Black (Oldman), a particularly dangerous wizard believed to be indirectly responsible for the death of Potter's parents, has escaped from Azkaban prison and is headed Harry's way.

That ominous threat puts a damper on his Hogwarts reunion with Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), but Harry also forms a bond with Professor Lupin (Thewlis), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who helps him confront his fears.

But, more than ever before, there are shades of gray in both the seemingly good and seemingly bad guys, lending Azkaban a greater, layered complexity than the earlier installments.

Despite the darker tone, Cuaron has found room for a great deal of humor, provided in part by an assortment of fresh characters including Thompson as Professor of Divination Sibyll Trelawney, a frightfully nearsighted seer.

Tech specs are uniformly impressive, from the artful compositions provided by incoming cinematographer and longtime Alan Parker collaborator Michael Seresin to Stuart Craig's always inventive production design to Tim Burke and Roger Guyett's magical visual effects (enter the Hippogriff) to John Williams' far moodier score.

And, speaking of uniform, costume designer Jany Temime, has effectively managed to take a little of the starch out of those proper Hogwarts outfits, sneaking in a casually contemporary flair more suited to the teen characters' budding sense of rebelliousness.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures presents

A Heyday Films/1492 Pictures production

An Alfonso Cuaron film


Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Producers: David Heyman, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe

Screenwriter: Steve Kloves

Based on the novel by: J.K. Rowling

Executive producers: Michael Barnathan, Callum McDougall, Tanya Seghatchian

Director of photography: Michael Seresin

Production designer: Stuart Craig

Editor: Steven Weisberg

Costume designer: Jany Temime

Visual effects supervisors: Roger Guyett, Tim Burke

Music: John Williams

Casting: Jina Jay


Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe

Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint

Hermione Granger: Emma Watson

Draco Malfoy: Tom Felton

Rubeus Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane

Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon

Vernon Dursley: Richard Griffiths

Sirius Black: Gary Oldman

Professor Snape: Alan Rickman

Petunia Dursley: Fiona Shaw

Professor McGonagall: Dame Maggie Smith

Peter Pettigrew: Timothy Spall

Professor Lupin: David Thewlis

Professor Trelawney: Emma Thompson

Mrs. Weasley: Julie Walters

Aunt Marge: Pam Ferris

MPAA Rating PG

Running time -- 141 minutes »

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