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5.0 out of 5 stars The Whole Hogwarts, 6 July 2006
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This review is from: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
They did leave out a lot, but since they even overstepped the two hour mark with this one, I'll let it pass.

For an adult, this is one of the better HP films - the director has played up the darker elements of Hogwarts and the milieu is all the better for it. Gone is the whimsy of the first film, which set the scene well but ended up as just another "jolly hockey sticks" British public school flick, the 2000s version of St Trinians or - worse still - Enid Blyton. There is much less emphasis on Quidditch (despite the book's insistence on chronicling yet another Inter-House Tournament, the only game included in the movie is the vital one to which the Dementors decide to go) and much more maturity in Harry and Hermione's characters, particularly at the end (Ron doesn't really get much of a look in with his leg conveniently in plaster, and Harry has bigger fish to fry than Draco Malfoy this time).

Although the book was much more detailed and the film skates over the plot - missing out much of the Sirius-James Potter-Harry relationship which becomes more important in the Goblet of Fire, as well as the reason for Snape's ambivalence towards Lupin and his hostility towards Black and his gang - the characterisation and effects are much more powerful than the rather twee design of the first film. Thankfully the Dursleys only really make a cameo appearance; with so much horror to face at school I find them a rather irritating sideshow. Although I can appreciate Rowling's motives for including them in the books, they got in the way somewhat in the first film and the less we see of them in future films, the better (though Aunt Petunia is rumoured to be more than she seems; this has evidently been left by Rowling for the finale though, a bigger secret even than the climax of book 6!).

What I like is the way we see the boys and girls of Hogwarts growing up into "normal" adolescents. This is probably the first film in which they behave like teenagers should do (having not seen the second film) and - why shouldn't Hermione care about her looks? Most normal teenage girls do at that age, even nerdy ones. This is the noughties, not the fifties. A girl - or dare I say it, a woman - like Hermione need not choose between geekiness and taking a normal healthy interest in her looks. Hermione is intelligent and quite powerful herself, not a wilting, etiolated weed. And she looks better in a pink hoodie than a grey school uniform.

A mark off for the continued typecasting of Timothy Spall and Dawn French and the lack of some important clues in the story, but this is nowhere near enough to rip a whole star off. Looking forward to watching the rest of the trilogy.
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