U.S. Release Date: November 15, 2002
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Steve Kloves
Producer: Chris Columbus (executive), David Heyman
Composer: William Ross (Adaptations), John Williams
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Kenneth Branagh, Julie Walters, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman
Running Time: 2 hours and 41 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (scary moments, some creature violence and mild language)

Second Time's a Charm
by Billy Reeves

In one of the creepier moments in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, young Harry Potter is literally sucked into a magical diary, so that he can relive the events for himself. I can say that after seeing the movie, I know how he feels. Watching the Chris Columbus sequel is like opening J.K Rowling's book and being sucked into its pages. You'll feel like a fly on the wall of a bigger, scarier and more magical world than The Sorcerer's Stone ever dreamed of being.

At 161 minutes, the movie feels like a blur, due in part to the lack of explanation and character development required this time. We know the past, so the present is all the sweeter.

From the moment the Warner Bros. logo flashes across the screen until the last credit plays the action and adventure is almost non-stop. New faces, stranger creatures, a flying car and a dark secret throw you from one scene to the next, and before you realize it the plot has played itself out to its heartfelt conclusion, only to have you wishing you could watch it again.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is entering his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, despite a warning administered by Dobby the House Elf that terrible things will happen if he returns. Dobby turns out to be right when a mysterious force begins petrifying students and leaving cryptic messages on the walls of the school. Legend has it that a secret chamber hidden within Hogwarts is the lair of a monster, one that only the heir of Salazar Slytherin can control. Everyone is suspect, including the famous Harry Potter. With his faithful friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), he must solve the mystery of the chamber and its monster or the school will be closed.

There may be no doubt that Radcliffe is the ideal Potter, but he manages to give another passionless performance that is easily upstaged once again by Grint and Watson. To play a character with such destined greatness so blandly is a let down, but on the positive side he has much more confidence and understanding than before. Radcliffe is a talented young actor, and the truth might just be that his character's appeal pales in comparison with that of the story's more colorful characters.

Grint is funnier than before, and although Ron is constantly in Harry's shadow, to the audience he's every bit as much a hero.

Watson steals the show just as she did in Stone, but now it's not just her smarts and her cutesy know-it-all attitude that earn her accolades. She is growing into a rather beautiful young lady. Her character is the most interesting and many of the scenes in Chamber revolve around her, as they do in the book. In essence, she's the star of the second installment. She is to Harry like Penny is to Inspector Gadget; she solves all the crimes, while he gets all the credit.

Tom Felton reprises his role as Draco Malfoy and is even nastier than before. He and Radcliffe have both matured, and their rivalry has grown deeper. One of the best lines in the movie is a scene where Draco and Potter have a duel. "Scared Potter?" says Draco, to which Harry replies, "You wish."

The late Richard Harris plays Headmaster Albus Dumbledore for the last time, and not only the franchise but also modern cinema as we know it has lost a great talent. There just isn't another actor that could capture the warmth and power of Dumbledore like he does. He will be missed.

Unfortunately there is much less of Alan Rickman's genius Serverus Snape, who is lost in the shuffle of new characters and creatures fowler than he is. What a waste of a wonderful performance.

Kenneth Branagh commands the role of the new defense against the dark arts teacher at Hogwarts, Gilderoy Lockhart. Branagh is simply brilliant in this role. He exudes the arrogance and dimwittedness of the character with perfection.

It is in The Chamber of Secrets that we are first introduced to Draco's father, Lucius Malfoy, played by Jason Isaacs (The Patriot). Isaacs does a perfect job of oozing with evil, much more evil than even Snape. His creepy albino look is a plus too.

The CGI in Chamber is some of the best I've ever seen, particularly Dobby who is far superior to Star Wars' Jar-Jar Binks. The Quidditch match is the picture's ultimate visual thrill and is a major improvement over the one in Stone. No more rules, explanation or fair play. Stone's watered down and overly explanatory match feels mechanical and contrived in comparison to the frantic life or death chase in Chamber.

Once again approaching the material with an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy, director Chris Columbus (Home Alone) does a fantastic job simply by faithfully following Rowling's story and chiming in where he can do the most good, namely the visuals.

One note of caution, The Chamber of Secrets may be too frightening for children under ten years of age and has some scenes of graphic violence and death.

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