Watching this movie gives you a sense as to the deeper value of the Harry Potter series, though just a sense. The universe of Harry Potter, at least what's presented on-screen, is packed with colorful personalities, fantastic backdrops, and some very clever magical objects. At its center is a character that brings together the best of Luke Skywalker and Frank Merriwell, while recalling and reclaiming a slightly antique British identity in line with Victorian explorers and "Chariots of Fire." I think I get it now.
But this movie tries to do too much with the source material. Judicious editing would have been a good idea. As it is, the movie spends more than 2 1/2 hours giving lip service, and often not much more, to bits of business that seem pretty extraneous by the time the credits roll. Even the central plot elements seem tacked on and inadequately dealt with. What was Alan Rickman's character's place in the story? Did we really need to spend so much time with Harry's unpleasant uncle and aunt, given the fact they are gone and forgotten 20 minutes in? Doesn't any kid at Hogwarts feel the least bit jealous at all the attention the doting faculty spends on precious Harry?
The story also moves a wee bit too easily. No real challenges face our hero. Everything that happens to Harry happens with such minimum fuss and so much applause from the surrounding characters that it gets a bit tired, even if the actor playing Harry is good at remaining sympathetic and projecting wonder. By the end, when the solution to a crisis at hand is literally dug out of Harry's pocket, I sort of shrugged and thought to myself: Of course. It's Harry Potter.
I can't believe all these bookreaders, not to mention those kids running around with their brooms and glasses on Halloween, fell for such denatured yarn-spinning. There's something good at the core of the movie, and it's likely the vision of the author as presented in the novels, but it doesn't come across well here. The producer seems more interested in giving every beloved book nugget its own turn on screen than in telling an interesting story. You may go in in search of your inner child, but you'll end up just feeling 160 minutes older than when you went in.