Tangmonkey Forum

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December 2001

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In this issue:    Harry Potter, Prince of Darkness! Star Trek! TV Terrors! PLUS: Coca Cola Christ! Literature! and What Ash Really Wants for Christmas!.
Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone *

Witchcraft and wizards and wankers, oh my! I was as excited as anyone about the upcoming, roundly British Harry Potter movie, but not for conventional reasons. I was mainly interested because a world that accepts a film about a kid meddling in the dark arts as viable children's entertainment is a world one step closer to accepting my election platform of dealing with squeegee kids and hobos with voodoo death curses. But alas, my dream of scene after scene of Potter and his cohorts dancing nude around a bonfire, smeared with goat's blood and shrieking reversed Bible passages at the top of their lungs was not to be, replaced instead with a parent-friendly, pop-culture mishmash of broomsticks, potions, and other Roald Dahl-inspired nonsense. Judging from Warlock, witchcraft and Wicca involve a lot more boiling of baby fat, and thus Harry Potter is a disgusting misrepresentation of high school pagans and Marilyn Manson fans alike. That aside, the film in itself is not all that bad, in that it could technically have been worse, in that it could technically have been longer. In targeting the film to kids in grade three and female drama students, the filmmakers have made a fatal error in the letting the movie run as long as it does. Most kids, raised on Pokemon and Power Rangers cartoons, don't have a particularly long attention span, and girls, no matter what the age, have bladders the side of shelled peanuts, making a two and a half hour film a stretch for both demographics. Nevertheless, director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and a slew of other irritating movies) was committed to translating the relatively lengthy novel to the big screen as completely and as faithfully as possible, to which end he cast the entire film with British actors. This may seem like a good idea in theory, but in practice, the more charmingly English accents you hear, the more you feel like you're watching an episode of Fawlty Towers, which isn't helped by the appearance of John Cleese as a character named Nearly Headless Nick. For those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the novels, the film tells the story of young orphan Harry Potter, played by Daniel Radcliff, who mark my words will have an extremely awkward adolescence in a few years. On his 11th birthday, Potter discovers that he is a powerful wizard, blessed with amazing powers, not the least of which is his apparent ability to make the lenses in his John Lennon glasses appear and disappear at will. He is spirited away to Hogwart's Academy, a magic school where everybody and everything has a stupid name torn straight from a Lewis Carroll poem. My favorite of these dumb names is Quidditch, the school sport of Hogwart's, which, as with all British sports like cricket, rugby, and snooker, makes absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, this lack of coherence is carried on throughout the entire film, which takes one leap of logic after another. I'm told the novels are slightly more sensical, but I rarely believe anything I'm told, especially when it's told to me by fully grown people who read Harry Potter books. Visually, the film is quite interesting, with a gloomy, gothic look that is somewhat effective, although it does occasionally venture into the absurd, like the irritating plethora of computer-generated owls, who are apparently harbingers of mail as well as doom. Unfortunately, some of the computer effects are not up to par, such as a goofy looking mountain troll and a horrible centaur that looks like it was designed with the graphics card of a Sega Genesis. In terms of acting, the performances are generably tolerable, especially Alan Rickman's turn as Snake, the sole teacher at Hogwart's who doesn't look like Gandalf, which makes me suspect that perhaps all this magic mumbo-jumbo is related more to delusional senility than the paranormal. Come to think of it, that would explain the Quidditch.

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