The Pink Power Granger


With Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Miranda Richardson, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, David Tennant
Directed by Mike Newell
Reviewed by JL and JB

      JL: The most ambitious of the Harry Potter films to date, GOBLET OF FIRE is also the most scattershot and episodic entry in the series, owing to the ever-increasing difficulty of condensing J.K. Rowling's epic-length novels into film-length adaptations.  Those who've read the book are likely to be disappointed by the film's omission of several key scenes and memorable events, whereas those unfamiliar with the book may be put off by the rapid-fire sequence of events.  Yet despite its flaws, the film works for both casual and serious fans, owing to its breathtaking action sequences, its deeper delving in to the characters, and the ever-more-horrifying depths of the dark forces.  When Albus Dumbledore states "We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy," we know that Harry's challenges have grown far beyond three-headed dogs and giant spiders.

"Can't Buy Me Love, oh..."      The element that holds the film together is its study of awkward adolescence, which is both playful and poignant, and which parallels the film's main backdrop of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Nearly all obstacles the characters encounter are rites of passage of some sort, with Harry having a much easier time summoning the courage to defeat the vast evil forces of nature than to ask a girl to the Yule Ball. (It's Neville Longbottom who, irony of ironies, emerges as the most successful ladies' man.)  When the eponymous goblet spits out Harry's name unexpectedly, it's the catalyst for both the main setpiece (the tournament) and for Harry being ostracized by his peers. It's a painful reminder for the grownups in the audience that adolescence is a time when we have no control over the circumstances that lead to social persecution.
     As with all the Potter films, it's the human element that's the most essential ingredient. The eye-popping CGI effects are still there in abundance, but, aside from the brilliantly rendered Hungarian Horntail dragaon, the most memorable effects for me were brief or understated moments (the shot of the massive Quiddich stadium, the miniature hand-held dragons, and the gorgeous shot of the flying horses and coach from Beauxbaton's Academy). It's no surprise that director Mike Newell was best known for such small-scale comedy-dramas as FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, leading me to think that directors who don't give a damn about CGI effects might be the best ones to helm films loaded with them.
     THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN still gets my vote for the strongest entry in the Potter film series, but GOBLET is not far behind. It may be something of a Cliff's Notes version of Rowling's novel, but in no way do we feel cheated because of it.   - JL

      JB: The entertainingly perplexing GOBLET OF FIRE is an exciting entry into the series with a few memorable comic moments, some spectacularly eye-popping effects, and even another visit from Lord Vol... er... well, You-Know-Who, played all too briefly by Ralph Fiennes.  The three main stars have suddenly grown up so much in two years, they almost look like their own older brothers and sisters when compared to the teens of PRISONER OF AZKABAN.  Radcliffe gives the sturdiest performance of the three, one as good as any of his three previous turns as boy-wizard Harry. He's particularly fine at showing Harry's awkwardness around girls, especially the young beauty he fancies, Cho Chang, played by winsome newcomer Katie Leung.

Ron Weasley would soon be replaced by Mick Taylor     Because of the solitary nature of Harry's tournament challenges, Ron and Hermione lack much of their usual purpose and, with so much info lost in translation from book to screen, the actors sometimes flounder about without direction or motivation.  Ron's sudden resentment toward Harry is played out without the backstory given in the book, so the the script makes him ultra-sensitive and standoffish toward Harry for no good reason.  Rupert Grint as Ron still gets plenty of opportunities to flex his comic muscles, getting laughs with lines as simple as "Yes", "No" and "Where?", and his convoluted, clumsy makeup scene with Harry, capped by Hermione's frustrated one-word utterance of "Boys!", is one of the funniest and warmest scenes of the series.  However, because Grint is so damn funny, the makers of the films are beginning to rely too much on his clowning abilities, and ignoring the character's heroic, albeit bumbling, qualities.  GOBLET OF FIRE was one of Grint's best and funniest performances yet, but it wouldn't be until THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE that Ron, and Rupert, would once again feel like an integral part of a Harry Potter story.

     Emma Watson's portrayal of Hermione is one of several "off"performances in the film.  Now that she is playing a sophisticated young adult version of Hermione, her more Margaret Dumontish tendencies ("WHUUTTT?!?!") are no longer as endearing as they were when Miss Granger was a prissy little 11-year-old fussbudget.  While one can marvel at her innate talent for making "owl" a three-syllable word and packing more punch into phrases like "Bulgarian bon-bon" than would seem possible, she tends to overact in the film, emphasizing Hermione's impatience and anger, often without motivation or explanation found in the film itself.  Her quieter, smaller moments are vastly bettter, especially in her scenes with Daniel Radcliffe, and thankfully she would rediscover her inner Hermione in the next film, and get better with each film after that.

     Kudos once again to Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom, the Trio's own personal Zeppo, who remains the Potter Stock Company's most underrated player.  As mentioned above in John L's review, it is Neville who triumphs at the school dance while the other three fail miserably.  The seconds-long scenes of him dancing by himself in the Gryffindor common roon, looking forward to doing something he actually may be good at for once, captures the effervescent, unpredictable nature of adolescence better than most of the Ron-Harry or Hermione-Ron skirmishes the film is built on. 

If you thinks he's weird, you should see his brother MadNose     The adult cast features one excellent addition in Brendan Gleeson, who plays the half-crazed, blustering Mad-Eye Moody, this year's Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher.  As seen in my favorite sequence of the film (the Unforgivable Curses lesson), when Gleeson is on screen, a very good film becomes a great one.  Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith make the most of their limited appearances by scoring some of the film's best laughs, and Miranda Richardson as tabloid reporter Rita Skeeter channels the late Madelyn Kahn in the way Emma Thompson channeled Andrea Martin in AZKABAN.  Unfortunately, Alan Rickman as Professor Snape is barely in the film, and Gary Oldman shows up in a way that makes you wonder why he even bothered.  But Roger Lloyd Pack's turn as Barty Crouch Sr.,  while certainly oddly memorable, makes me wonder - who invited Inspector Clouseau to Hogwarts? David Tennant, who was just about to become the new "Doctor" in the revived Doctor Who TV series, makes for a great over-the-top villainous Death Eater.

     Now in his second Potter film, Michael Gambon is still a thorn in the sides of many fans.  I am firmly and unapologetically pro-Gambon and with each viewing of AZKABAN and GOBLET, I've found more to enjoy in his lively, slightly nutty take on Dumbledore (rewatch the Time Turner scene in AZKABAN and tell me the new Dumbledore isn't just a little bonkers).  He brings a charged energy to the role that will become more important as the series comes to a head over the next few years, assuming he's is still playing the part.  Just watch the way he runs to hit his mark in the scene in which the Beauxbaton beauties and Durmstrang boys are welcomed to  Hogwarts, or the look he gives Madame Maxine when he kisses her hand  - it clearly says "Whattaya say, you and me, babe, later, in the Chamber of Secrets?".  But I do admit that in his second film as Richard Harris's replacement, he still hasn't nailed down his version of Dumbledore. He's just a little too energetic, without the dignity required for the part.  Like Watson, Gambon would improve greatly after this film, though it seems half the Harry Potter fans will always hate him.

Snape really enjoys being Professor of Magical Phrenology     Overall, GOBLET OF FIRE is not a film for Potter novices. The film makes little attempt to make J. K. Rowling's fourth tale easily accessible to newcomers - by now, you either know what's going on or you don't.  GOBLET also assumes that you love Harry and friends so much you will be happy to follow them for two and a half hours without much of a plot.  Along the way, GOBLET OF FIRE throws so many new characters at you, presented in such sketchy ways, it clearly presupposes you have read the book. Strange things occur without explanation and important factoids are mentioned nearly in passing - if you miss them, you're lost.  Although director Mike Newell and screenwriter Steven Kloves should be commended for whittling down Rowling's enjoyably sprawling Dickensian slagheap of a novel into a workable two and a half hour movie, THE GOBLET OF FIRE is still a film that would benefit from onscreen pop-up notes ("A portkey is an every day device that has been magically turned into a transporter").  On the surface, GOBLET OF FIRE is as entertaining and memorable as any of the other Potter movies with some characters and scenes that rank among the best of the series.  But it is clearly a transitional film, not nearly as well-paced as THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, and, even more than the first two films of the series, it feels even longer than its near-three hour running time.  ½ - JB

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The Secret Vortex


"But first, which of you can tell me how many Unforgivable Curses there are?"
"Three, sir."
"And they are so named?"
"Because they are unforgivable."