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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

October 8, 2010

7/10 Wingardium Leviosas

Mirrors the novel to a tee, and that ain’t exactly a bad thing…as long as you’ve read the novel.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is about a kid who’s raised from infancy by an aunt and uncle that treat him like shit, force him to cook them all blood sausage for breakfast and then lock him up in a SARS-infested utility closet under the staircase. Then, on his eleventh birthday, a giant hobo wizard shows up at his door, clues the boy into the fact that he’s also a wizard and that he doesn’t have to live with these fat assholes any more because he’s been accepted to wizard school! So the kid flips his relatives the bird, laughs heartily as his cousin gets turned into a filthy swine and starts learning the ways of wizardry while making new friends, scoring chicks after he becomes the school quarterback for the wizard football team, and unravelling the mystery behind the whereabouts of the evil wizard who offed his parents and gave him a totally bitchin’ scar.

Man, does anyone remember the commotion when this movie came out? Anarchy. Sheer effing anarchy. Made The British Invasion look like a fart in the wind. Then again, if I had actually read through the books nine years ago and hadn’t gone to an all-boys High School where I undoubtedly would have been hazed to a pulp for merely sneezing the word “Hufflepuff” in passing, I probably would have been pretty pumped, too. But over the last year, I finally came around, proudly read through them all in one fell swoop like a goddamn meth fiend, fell in love with ’em (naturally) and immediately thereafter started making jokes about the Room of Requirement when I couldn’t the bathroom in a restaurant.

Some days I wonder how another human being agreed to be my fiancee.

Anyway, the best thing director Chris Columbus does with this adaptation is that he doesn’t change a damn thing. This is one of those movies has the potential to prevent legions of students from ever having to read the book for homework since it follows J. K. Rowling’s lead so religiously. No, it’s not the best of the seven in terms of the books or the movies, but considering that this is the bad boy which turned Rowling into an overnight bagillionaire and compelled legions of kids to spend their days reading books instead of memorizing Fatalities, taking liberties with a foolproof formula probably would have been a stupid call. And what’s great about this approach – shoddy special effects and all – is how it ends up capturing that same sense of awe and amazement that hooked me and millions of other eight-year-olds in the first place.

Rowling’s a great writer and that only becomes clearer by the time you hit the last book and realize that the whole damn thing was mapped out from the start, but the biggest strength of her debut effort was how she made wizards cool again. With the exception of Dumbledore (who is the fucking MAN), she ditched the beards, ditched the star-spangled bathrobes, ditched the idea that a wand wouldn’t stand a chance against a sword and brought a whole new sense of awesomeness to magic that I hadn’t felt since the first time my uncle pulled a quarter out of my ear. She gives us a hero that’s just like us, completely ordinary and leading an unspectacular life that’s going nowhere, and then, clear out of the blue, fate hands him a winning Powerball ticket the likes of which all of us have dreamed of and continue to hope for during those especially mean cases of the Mondays.

And that “Jackpot!” sentiment runs throughout this whole movie. When Harry goes through Platform 9¾ for the first time, I wanted to do that. When he lays those peepers on Hogwarts for the first time, I wanted to go there. When he finds out that he’s the best damn quidditch seeker the school’s ever seen even though he’s never played the freakin’ game before, WHY, GOD, WHY!?

But the child actors really do a swell job of getting that same “This is nuts!” feeling across, too. Daniel Radcliffe is awfully fitting as Harry, Emma Watson is great as the holier-than-thou brains of the group, Hermione, and Rupert Grint (arguably the weak link of the trio, probably because he keeps making that Jim Halpert face all the time) ain’t bad as Ron. Then throw in the late, great Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore, England’s favorite Maggie Smith as Prof. McGonagall, a bit role by John Cleese, a bit role by John Hurt, and the wonderfully sinister and evil-from-birth Alan Rickman as Trent Reznor look-alike contest winner, Severus Snape, and you’ve got yourself one pretty boss community of British wizards. Also find it hilarious that an unrecognizable Verne Troyer plays a goblin banker and Warwick Davis plays Professor Flitwick because Warwick Davis is the Marlon Brando of the dwarf acting community.

And Robbie Coltrane is fantastic as Hagrid.

Hagrid rules.

But when all is said and done, watching this is like watching a picture book, like having a visual aide that brings life to all these people, places and things that I had all these images for in my head…and that’s about it. Not a bad thing necessarily, but I do wish there was something new about it. Can’t say much about the script either because it’s taken straight out of the book. Although with The Half-Blood Prince, the one complaint I always heard from my friends who hated it was that “they left so much out,” and while I’ll weigh in on that one in due time, gotta give Sorcerer’s Stone credit for dodging that bullet by a mile. I don’t know, it’s just a total double-edge sword.

By the same token, I’d take the book over the movie any day and if you end up seeing this without reading the book beforehand, you’re probably wasting your time. For fans, it’s a nice little luxury of sorts that brings a sense of reality to our imagantions while not really add anything to the mix, but Sorcerer’s Stone is easily the most childish (for lack of a better word) entry in the series, and while that vibe works really well on text, I could see how all you muggles out there could have no problem writing this off as “a kids movie”. Not crazy about the 150-minute run-time either, but an enjoyable trip down memory lane all the same.

Still have no idea why Rowling’s publishers pushed for her to call it a Sorcerer’s Stone for American audiences rather than just keeping it as a Philosopher’s Stone (which it totally is). Publishers are dumb.

And if you happen to be itching to see this again…you know what, even if you’re not, don’t bother with the DVD. Do yourself a favor and check out the link below of Wizard People, Dear Reader by animator Brad Neely (the dude behind the hilariously epic “Washington, Washington” clip). Might seem bizarre at first, but stick with it, I nearly wet myself. Trust me, it’s the only way to watch this movie.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2010 11:40 am

    “Had a wig for his wig!
    Had a brin for his heart!
    He’ll kick you apart!
    He’ll save children, but not the British children!
    He’ll save children, but not the British children!
    He’ll save children, but not the British children!
    Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo!”


    • October 8, 2010 12:43 pm

      hahahahaha. “That…motherfucker had, like, thirty goddamn dicks.”

      One of the funniest things on the internet by a longshot. You gotta check out Wizard People, dude.

  2. October 8, 2010 5:17 pm

    God that Wizard People is funny as hell. How’d you find it?

    Love the part “What plan you ask? Well they are going to leave this veritable weapon of the Gods, this paradox of babiness and power, right here on a frickin muggle’s doorstep!”

    Just as good if not better than the 70 Minute Phantom Menace Review. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. October 13, 2010 2:52 am

    It’s about time you get into this series, Aiden!

    I was an absolute Harry Potter nut in junior high/high school, but seeing how I was in a class of 11 people and I was the Captain of damn near everything in high school, didn’t have to worry about hazing.

    The rest of the series does go away from the books quite a bit, but each book does get substantially bigger, so you have to cut bits and pieces out. Which is why it was a good idea to split the 7th book into two pieces, even though I thought it would’ve been better to split 5 and 6 into three different movies.

    • October 13, 2010 9:09 am

      Yeah, it does help that this is the shortest book in the series. Man, it really shouldn’t have taken until 23 to get into these books, huh? Still, they rock so hard. Looking forward to seeing 5 (my least favorite of the books) and 6 again after your theory, but also glad they’re just splitting up the last one. Wish more studios would do that instead of cramming it all into one place.

      • October 13, 2010 3:45 pm

        I had a few problems with 5 while I watched it the first time, but it has gotten better with each viewing…6 is great just for production value alone. I know alot of people complained that it focused on junior high-type romance too much, but I thought it set up the final book just perfectly, which if you look back at the 6th book, that was all that it did.

      • October 13, 2010 3:54 pm

        No way, 6 was so much more than that, dude. at least with the book i thought it was. lot of quality harry & dumbledore time, and snape (my favorite character after dumbledore) finally gets brought to the forefront in a big ol’ way. if there was an entry with too much teen romance and whiny bastard teen angst, it was 5 by a mile. do remember liking the movie more though, will report back.

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