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We Are Wizards (2008)

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This documentary looks at Harry Potter fans and the musical acts inspired by the novels.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Melissa Anelli ...
Paul DeGeorge ...
Joe DeGeorge ...
Henry Jenkins ...
Himself (as Dr. Henry Jenkins)
Heather Lawver ...
Matt Maggiacomo ...
Caryl Matrisciana ...
Bradley Mehlenbacher ...
Tina Olsen ...
Brian Ross ...
Shoshana Rudski ...
Mike Walsh ...
Spencer Walsh ...


This documentary looks at Harry Potter fans and the musical acts inspired by the novels.

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14 November 2008 (USA)  »

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Shapeless, pointless, and a half-hour too long
10 October 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I really, really hope that the movie is not entirely representative of Harry Potter fandom.

The documentary is in the worst tradition started inadvertently by Errol Morris. Thanks to movies like GATES OF HEAVEN (good) and FAST, CHEAP AND OUT OF CONTROL (not so good) there are now hundreds of third-rate amateurs who figure that all they need to do to make a documentary is find some group of quirky weirdos--or, worse, several groups of weirdos who actually don't have that much connection to each other--then roll the cameras for a few hours and print up the results. "We Are Wizards" makes only the vaguest attempt to force any kind of structure or point of view on what is, for the most part, an amorphous collection of interview and convention footage. Various assortments of losers come into focus for a few minutes hither and thither. There are a number of garage bands who write songs about the Harry Potter universe; none of the people we see can actually sing and nobody knows more than three guitar chords. The worst of the lot are a Harry Potter-inspired death metal wannabe (sporting a round physique, a balding pate and a mighty neckbeard that makes him look a lot like the Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers) and, worse, a couple of homeschooled kids who give off a creepy "Jesus Camp" vibe but for a different reason. There are people who live for running Harry Potter fansites and who--when the documentary makes a laughable attempt at drumming up tension--make a huge deal of theirdisillusionment when they find out that Warner Brothers doesn't care about Harry Potter fans. There's a spectacularly unfunny cartoonist who's got a sideline in recording ham-fisted parody audio tracks for the Harry Potter movies. Five minutes with any of these people is enough to make you run screaming to the asylum gates clawing to escape from the madness. And we get to spend eighty minutes with them!

Roger Ebert has wisely told us, "A movie is not what it is about. It is about how it is about it." I'm not sure he is entirely correct; there must be some subject so arid, so devoid of interest and entertainment, that even the most artfully filmed movie about that subject cannot possibly hope to be good viewing. Of all the documentaries I've seen, "We Are Wizards" comes closes in that regard. All you can do is boggle at these people, singing their ghastly songs and recording their painfully belabored parodies, and ask them: didn't anyone, at any time, even suggest to you that maybe you need to improve your voice or write better jokes? Is this what enthusiastic fandom does to people? Make them into colossal bores?

"We Are Wizards" makes one attempt to present an alternate viewpoint and it's so thoroughly misguided and formulaic that I must comment on it. You see, the movie opens not with bad Harry Potter music or worse Harry Potter riff-tracking but with a voice-over from a woman who believes that the Harry Potter phenomenon is seducing children to dabble with the occult. We've heard that line before and it raises the promise--cruelly dashed--that the movie will be about that ginned-up controversy and not just about a pack of talent-free musicians and cartoonists. The woman who thinks J. K. Rowling is turning children to the Dark Side, after that first voice-over, doesn't reappear until nearly the end of the movie, so that she has the effect of "bookending" the movie. What's more, while all of the miscellaneous losers we've seen have been emphatically American, the anti-HP woman has a British accent, the only one in the movie, and she's also the only real adult. Everyone else we've seen have been children and unformed men in their twenties who might as well be children. Therefore We Are Wizards casts opposition to Harry Potter mania into a familiar mold: it's the stuffy, Old World, schoolmarmish reaction to the boundless energy of fresh-faced American youths who just want to express their creativity. (Much is made, by the way, of how "creative" all of this imitative and talentless zeros are.) Worse, the introduction of this notion that Harry Potter books might be leading kids to dabble with witchcraft goes unexamined because its one voice in the documentary is given to a ridiculous and schematized figure. Why not dig into that more? For all I know there are kids who decide to buy books on Wicca after reading Harry Potter. Hopefully they thence discover that "witchcraft" is nothing more than warmed-over and sanitized 19th century British occultism and quartz crystals strip-mined from Brazil, but that's hoping for too much, perhaps. All the same, whether or not there actually is any real connection between Harry Potter fandom and interest in the occult--which is a real thing, just not the thing that right-wing crazies seem to think it is--would have been far, far more interesting a topic of inquiry than what "We Are Wizards" gave us to watch.

All in all, a thoroughly wretched movie about unpleasant people and with zero insight into the phenomenon it purports to investigate. The worst documentary I've seen, and I've seen some wretched ones.

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Saw it at Sarasota Film Festival, link to my review joebenjamin
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