HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2004 David N. Butterworth
**1/2 (out of ****)
Unlike the first two Harry Potter films, 2004's "Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban" (hereafter referred to as HP3 to save my failing
fingertips) doesn't open at Thanksgiving (it's the start of the summer
season and here's Harry already!) and isn't directed by Chris Columbus
(this time around Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón takes over the directing
reins). But it still looks and feels very much like a Harry Potter movie no
matter how you slice it, and that's good news for the rabid and
multitudinous fans of J.K. Rowling's series of children's books (later to be
dramatized with alarming alacrity) about a now 13-year-old orphan
who just so happens to be a wizard.
That has as much to do with the Harry Potter phenomenon as it does
the product on the table, of course--HP3 is neither worse nor better than
its predecessors--and it carries with it the same criticisms that befall any
attempt at literary adaptation, i.e., the stuff they left out, the stuff they
put in, and just how the filmmakers' interpretation matches our own humble
Having myself struggled with Rowling's lack of sophistication, patently
obvious and "chiefly Brit." humor, and surprisingly sub-juvenile POV, I will
admit that she sure knows how to set up a story, populate it with living,
breathing personalities, and tell her tale with an uncommon yet assured
simplicity. Case in point: Sirius Black, a central figure in HP3, is actually
introduced (or at the very least mentioned) on page 16 of "Harry Potter and
the Sorcerer's Stone"! Now that's forward thinking...
The gang's all here in HP3 of course: Harry, Ron, Hermione, the
Dursleys, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy,
all wistfully realized by the very same actors as before (with the exception
of Albus Dumbledore--Michael Gambon steps in for the late Richard
Harris without missing a beat). And there are some typically decent
additions: Emma Thompson as Professor Sybil Trelawney, David Thewlis
(remember him from Mike Leigh's "Naked"?) as black arts master
Professor Lupin, Timothy Spall (another Mike Leigh favorite) as the ratty
Peter Pettigrew, and yes that's Gary Oldman as the eponymous prisoner
himself, with a chamber full of secrets--and a very animated wanted
poster--all his own.
"The Prisoner of Azkaban" is the one, lest you've forgotten, that features
Harry, in his third year at Hogwarts, attaining greater insight into the
betrayal and tragic death of his parents while being pursued by an
escaped murderer (Black) and ghoulish, life-sucking Dementors (whose
first appearance, parents of little ones take note, should have garnered
the film a PG-13, not PG, rating).
Personally I had higher hopes for this film, given Cuarón's involvement
(his "A Little Princess," an adaptation of another beloved children's book,
and "Y Tu Mamá También" were two of my ten best films of 1995 and
2001 respectively), but the worst you can say about HP3 is that it's more of
the same... and endlessly so (almost two-and-a-half hours by the time
John Williams's unmemorable score drones to a close). The hippogriff,
made unnecessarily central, is decent; the werewolf, necessarily central,
is ludicrous; and they should have done more with the Marauder's Map.
Otherwise "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is a dependable
and easygoing entry in the ever dependable and ongoing series.
David N. Butterworth
Got beef? Visit "La Movie Boeuf"
online at http://members.dca.net/dnb
========== X-RAMR-ID: 37962 X-Language: en X-RT-ReviewID: 1287493 X-RT-TitleID: 1132921 X-RT-SourceID: 878 X-RT-AuthorID: 1393 X-RT-RatingText: 2.5/4
The review above was posted to the
rec.arts.movies.reviews newsgroup (de.rec.film.kritiken for German reviews).
The Internet Movie Database accepts no responsibility for the contents of the review and has no editorial control. Unless stated otherwise, the copyright belongs to the author.
Please direct comments/criticisms of the review to relevant newsgroups.
Broken URLs in the reviews are the responsibility of the author.
The formatting of the review is likely to differ from the original due to ASCII to HTML conversion.
Related links: index of all rec.arts.movies.reviews reviews