Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Warner Bros. has a great thing going with their Harry Potter franchise. Every few years they can pump out another movie and reap in millions of dollars. The difference is that these films have quality filmmakers, compelling stories, and some of the best actors in the world cast in supporting roles. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has Miranda Richardson, Brendon Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes joining the already impressive cast. The director this time around is Mike Newell (Mona Lisa Smile, Pushing Tin). Honestly, Newell does not have the family family-friendly instincts of Chris Columbus, or the sheer imagination of Alfonso Cuaron. He doesn't really have any distinctive style at all. What he does have is a knack for storytelling, and the ability to shift moods quickly. He delivers another solid entry not by doing something different, but by staying true to the emotional content of the book, part of which deals with the growing maturity of its characters. One of the most impressive aspects of the Harry Potter franchise is that viewers get to watch the actors grow up, and as their characters mature, the story becomes more complex.

This is the darkest movie yet, and the first in J.K. Rowling's series to earn a PG-13 rating (although the last one probably should have). It's year four at Hogwarts, and the school is hosting the Tri-Wizard tournament, which consists of three potentially lethal challenges. The winner receives "eternal glory." Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) finds himself in the tournament, even though he is too young to compete and did not enter his own name in. Meanwhile, he is having horrible dreams about the ever-imminent return of Voldemort (Fiennes, The Chumscrubber, Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit). The bulk of the plot (adapted by Steven Kloves, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) deals with the challenges surrounding the tournament and the looming evil.

With so many characters, both major and minor, it means that many great actors like Alan Rickman (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Maggie Smith (Ladies in Lavender, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Jason Isaacs (The Chumscrubber, Nine Lives), and Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) get little screen time. However, it brings a sense of continuity to the film. Otherwise, Michael Gambon's (Layer Cake, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) role is larger than before, proving that he was a good replacement as Dumbledore.

Goblet suffers a bit at the beginning, when Newell and Kloves take time to set up the various characters and subplots. It moves a bit slowly, but the overall film is an efficient adaptation given the sheer length of Rowling's book. Again, Newell's film doesn't have the same feeling of magic that Cuaron brought to his film, but he does begin to bridge the journey into adolescence. Harry and Ron (Rupert Grint, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) bicker surprisingly acrimoniously, and along with Hermione (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) all begin to take notice of the opposite sex. At the same time, the experiences he has force him to make choices, and Newell shows a maturing Potter trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong.

The nature of Goblet's story, allows for more computer animation than the other films. There are dragons, mer-creatures, killer topiary, and other assorted things of magic. Newell does not let the special effects overtake the film; instead he makes sure that the story is first, and the effects are complementary. They mimic the emotional highs and lows that the characters experience. Along with the darker elements, Newell lightens the mood with touches of humor. These kids have emotions all over the place, and it makes the look and sound like real kids.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 30 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.

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