Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Movie Log: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Like all of the Harry Potter movies, this is a bit too long, too overstuffed, and rushes too quickly to hit the high points. It's the curse of working from books that have been memorized by a horde of obsessed fans, I suppose: there's a sense that these films are desperately trying to cram everything from the books in, and there's no way that could possibly work.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is, I think, the second-best movie in the series -- it's not as good as its immediate predecessor (...Prisoner of Azkaban), but works much better than the poky and obvious first two movies. The Wife and I finally saw it this Friday; I remembered that we had a copy of it, and we felt like seeing it.

It's a notably funny movie -- mostly because of the actors playing the Weasley twins (and The Wife thinks they should be given their own English chat show right now -- if they can be half that funny unscripted, it would be a blast), but the whole middle of the movie is mostly fun and light-hearted, without much in the way of schoolwork or death threats from undead Dark Lords to cloud the picture. The former never really does show up -- the movie had to jettison nearly all references to the fact that Harry is at a school just to hit a 150-minute running time -- but the latter does turn up, like the proverbial bad penny, by the end. (Ralph Fiennes is pretty good as the Noseless Wonder, though he does get some pretty big pieces of scenery stuck in his teeth.)

One thing I do enjoy about the books and movies is how Harry isn't actually all that good at very much -- by this point, we've learned that he survived not due to any intrinsic magical specialness of his own, but merely because his mother was willing to die to save him. He's a damn good Quiddich player and general broom-rider, but he doesn't seem to otherwise be much good at schoolwork, and he's a bit of a dim bulb (having to be nudged repeatedly to notice the obvious). Come to think of it, he's a quintessentially British hero (public-school division) -- brave to a fault, fiercely loyal to his friends, but not an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination.

I still think these books don't lend themselves well to the kind of movies the studio wants to make -- the movies should either be more streamlined and have their own distinct plots, or each book should be turned into a longer piece (two to three movies or a miniseries). But nobody asked me, and the fans seem to be enjoying the movies as they are. Goblet of Fire is long but not too long (I didn't look at my watch until nearly the two-hour mark), and it's splendidly entertaining. And practically everyone reading this saw it a good year ago.

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