Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (2002)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 11/15/02
Director: Chris Columbus
Music: John Williams
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, cameos by Warwick Davis and John Cleese

Harry Potter's second outing definitely suffers from sequelitis and feels rushed and unfocused. It's time to go back to school at Hogwarts, but an annoying house elf named Dobby is trying his darnedest to keep Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) from going back. Harry's best friend Ron (Rupert Grint) finally rescues him from his plight and after a series of misadventures, they finally make it to school. But nasty things are going on at Hogwarts, as students become mysteriously petrified and bloody warnings are written on the walls. The legendary Chamber Of Secrets has been opened again, and no one is safe from the monster that lurks within. Naturally, Harry, Ron, and Hermione break every rule in the book to investigate, and Harry once again saves the world of magic from certain doom.

It's amazing how much the actors have grown in the last year, and they're soon going to be too old for their parts. As such, Harry, Ron, and Hermione seem to be entering that awkward stage of puberty, which takes away much of their purity and innocence. They all do an excellent job with their roles, and Ron's performance nearly steals the show. Sadly, my favorite character Hermione (adorable Emma Watson) doesn't get to do much in the film and is absent for the entire second half. Hogwarts itself seems to have lost much of its innocence and sense of wonder as well. While the film looks and feels like the original, it no longer seems fresh and magical. The tone of the film is much more serious and mature than the original, but its execution seems more juvenile. It consistently overstates the obvious and fails to answer any of the pressing issues. It also introduces some extremely annoying characters, and Dobby fits into the Jar Jar Binks category quite nicely. Moaning Myrtle was also handled in a very juvenile manner, which could have been the intention, but I found her presentation forced and unnatural. Additionally, the film tries too hard to get laughs when it shouldn't be. The story itself seems unfocused, as it frantically tries to hit every major plot point in the book, but fails see them all through. This leaves a lot of loose ends and confusion, making the whole story seem inconsistent and illogical.

Still, apart from these niggles, the film is beautiful to watch and a lot of fun. John Williams' score once again sweeps you into Hogwarts' magical domain, and the visual effects are exciting and effective. Richard Harris (Prof. Dumbledore) passed away after the film was completed, so it will be very interesting to see who his replacement will be. It will also be interesting to see how a different director will handle the next installment, as Chris Columbus bowed out after finishing this one.