03 April 2012

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson)

We saw this film back in 2001 when it was in the cinemas. It's one of a handful that I've wanted to see on the 'big screen' in the past fifteen years or so, and I felt it was well worthwhile. I had already read 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' a couple of times, and thought it an excellent book. I was a little concerned that the movie version might stray from the plot, but knew that JK Rowling had a hand in it. I was pleased to discover that it did, indeed, keep pretty close to the storyline.

We got hold of the DVD a year or two ago, and it's been watched by some friends, but it's only recently that we decided to watch the entire series - gradually - at home. We actually took two evenings over this one, separated by nearly a week; it's a long film (two and a half hours) and despite being a children's book for which I knew the plot well, I found it a bit tense in places.

The plot of this first Harry Potter story is well-known. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), adopted as a baby by his rather unpleasant aunt and uncle, is treated like a servant by them, and bullied by his ghastly cousin Dudley. They do all they can to make him 'normal', but genetics win out.. and on Harry's 11th birthday he is collected by the friendly - and enormous - Hagrid, and taken to Hogwarts School for trainee wizards.

Harry quickly becomes friends with the impoverished Ron (Rupert Grint) and the brainy Hermione (Emma Watson), while becoming less popular with some of the other students. Despite his unpleasant upbringing, and total lack of knowledge about anything magical, he displays an unusual talent for the school game of Quidditch (played on broomsticks) and also an amazing integrity and loyalty, and a willingness to defeat evil.

The three children were superbly cast, with great chemistry which develops as they get to know each other better. Dumbledore (Richard Harris) was perhaps a bit too softly spoken, but looked the part entirely; Snape (Alan Rickman) was suitably sneering and unpleasant. The message of the book - that love overcomes everything, that integrity and honesty are the most important traits - comes through clearly, and I found myself gripped, almost as if I did not know what was coming.

There are some scary moments towards the end, and a little minor bad language, so the rating for this film is PG in both the US and UK. For some reason the book (and film) were re-titled as 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' in the US.

Highly recommended. (Note that, while it is widely available, both new and second-hand, the best value DVDs tend to be in box sets with some of the others in the Harry Potter series.)

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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