Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Bomb Rating: 

I'm not going to try and kid anybody and deny that there's something special about J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." After all, the book has sold how many millions of copies? Then again, millions of people also buy John Edward's books and watch that shyster's television show, "Exploiter of the Dead," so really, how smart is the average person? Answer: dumb as a stump.

However, it's not that hard to identify what children find appealing in the Harry Potter books. What makes the Harry Potter books work -- especially "Sorcerer's Stone" -- is that Harry Potter is an ordinary kid. In fact, he's about the least likely kid in the world to be a wizard. This allows Rowling's young readers to identify with Harry. It allows them to think, "If this could happen to somebody like Harry Potter, it could happen to somebody like me." It is the single most important feeling evoked by the book. Forget wonder, forget imagination -- if kids cannot identify with Harry Potter, they cannot enjoy the book.

So what does director Christopher Columbus remove from the movie? He removes the audience's ability to identify with Harry Potter. While he's at it, he also removes the crucial sense of fear and tension Harry experiences at Hogwarts -- in the book, he is constantly afraid of being expelled. That's all missing. It's all missing because people like Christopher Columbus don't have the slightest idea what compels people to love something. All they understand is how to sell something. They understand marketing and survey forms. They think that the key to getting audiences to connect with the kids on the flying brooms is to spend enough money to make the flying brooms as realistic as possible.

There's an emotional connection with the literary Harry Potter because his readers are happy for him. The beginning of that book is critical. The beginning of this movie is just a shortcut allowing Columbus to quickly start gorging himself on special effects. The wonder is missing. Harry isn't afraid of anything. Snape (Alan Rickman) seems more smarmy than evil. Malfoy just looks like a brat. There's no connection between Harry and Hedwig (in fact, Hedwig's name is never mentioned). The story is grudgingly doled out like an audio book read by Paul Harvey.

Didn't anybody have a clue this would happen when they hired the guy who directed "Bicentennial Man"? It's like hiring Charles Manson to baby-sit your children.

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