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Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by Chris Columbus

Running Time: 2:32

Rated PG
for some scary moments and mild language.

Daniel Radcliffe
as Harry Potter

Rupert Grint
as Ron Weasley

Emma Watson
as Hermione Granger

Richard Harris
as Headmaster Dumbledore

Maggie Smith
as Professor McGonagall

Alan Rickman
as Professor Snape

Robbie Coltrane
as Rubeus Hagrid

complete cast list...

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Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)

Harry Potter and the
Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)

Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)

Harry Potter and the
Goblet of Fire (Book 4)

While no movie could ever do justice to the film that plays inside everyone's head when they read a book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone does a great job at bringing the beloved book to life on the big screen.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), The Boy Who Lived, is a wizard. His parents died at the hands of evil wizard Lord Voldemort when Harry was but a child. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry however, the spell backfired, and Harry lived, while Voldemort was almost killed. Needing a place to live, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris) places Harry with his aunt and uncle, the Dursley's. The Dursley's don't treat Harry well, and make him live in the cupboard under the stairs. Harry grows up not knowing who he is. Nearing his 11th birthday, strange cards start to appear addressed to Harry. His uncle refuses to allow Harry to read the cards, but one night the giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) appears and takes Harry away to Hogwarts. Harry is immediately befriended by the red-headed Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). The three of them quickly become best friends, and stumble upon a plan by Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) to steal the Sorcerer's Stone, which would allow the owner to live forever. Facing danger at every turn, the three friends manage to save the school, and Harry faces down Lord Voldemort once again.

That was a very, very quick rundown of the story of the movie. It is almost impossible to put into words how amazing the Harry Potter books are. Millions of people around the world have read the books, and each of them had an idea of how it would look, myself included. That is why when I first heard they were going to be making a movie, I was apprehensive. No movie could compare to my imagination, no matter how good it was. And the fact is, in the movie there were some things that didn't look at all like I imagined, some that were dead on, and some that were in fact better than I had imagined. For example the dorm room where Harry and Ron sleep didn't look as lavish as I had imagined, while their common room was almost exactly like I pictured. The one scene that turned out better than I had hoped was the living chess match towards the end. While true Potter fans will all be able to pick out certain things that weren't included, and certain things that were changed, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a great movie, and hopefully the first of seven Harry Potter films.

Where to begin... The movie follows the book pretty faithfully in my opinion. It hit all the major points and kept the tone of the books intact. The problem with a movie over a book is that in a book you can read what the character is thinking and feeling, while in a movie it has to be shown visually most of the time. Also in a book there is a lot of description of places, things and people, while in a movie, it's all visual description. In the book, almost half the time is spent with Harry being at the Dursley's house, and how he manages to cope with that. In the movie, it takes around 40 minutes before Harry arrives at school. While the main idea is still there, a lot of scenes were compressed, obviously for time considerations. If the movie had been an exact replica of the book, it would have been 6 hours long. But I did miss certain things, like when Harry goes to Gringott's Bank to get some money. The movie shows him entering, talking to the goblins, then he's at his vault. In the book we get to go on a roller-coaster ride underneath the city of London as hundreds of carts fly by in a maze of rails before Harry gets to his bank vault. It was little things like that, that I missed in the movie. But as I said, no major scene was missing.

The special effects were very well done. The one big scene that almost everyone was looking forward to, was the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin (check the glossary for more information). In the book you can feel yourself flying on a broomstick, looking left and right for that pesky snitch. The movie did a great job at making you feel like you were flying right alongside the players. It was exactly like I imagined it would look like. I also loved the way they used the invisible cloak. They did a good job of making Harry (and at times Ron and Hermione) invisible, but still allowing the audience to know exactly where they were. The creatures seemed a little cheesy at times, but the ending scene with Voldemort was wonderful.

The actors were fairly well cast. I loved Emma Watson has Hermione, I thought she hit the character perfectly. Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid was wonderful, and the best, dead-on casting job had to be Alan Rickman as Professor Snape. I only wish the movie had been able to spend more time on some of the supporting characters. Again this was obviously done due to time constraints. The movie focused almost exclusively on Harry, Ron and Hermione, while only touching the supporting cast. Hopefully in future films we'll be able to see and learn more about Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Hagrid and the rest of the other players. Daniel Radcliffe did an admirable job playing the world-famous Harry Potter, and Rupert Grint had all the best lines as best friend Ron. The only people I thought were miscast were the twins that played Fred and George Weasley. They just looked odd to me.

I guess the only real problem I had with the film would have been the look of some of the sets. I had been hoping for a Tim Burton-esque feel, a kind of Gothic look to the scenery. The movie looked like it was just another part of England, which I suppose it really was supposed to be. Director Chris Columbus is known more for his ability to work with child actors, than his visual stylings, so I wasn't too surprised with what I saw, I had just been hoping for more. The music was a nice addition because that's something that you can't really have in your mind when you're reading. I think I might buy the soundtrack and have it playing when I read the books yet again (so far I've read the first three books 3 times each, and the fourth book twice).

I went into this movie with a serious bias. I absolutely love the books, more than any movie I've ever seen. So when you take the books, and combine that with a movie, well I was in heaven. But even with all that, I still believe this was a fantastic movie. Even though it clocks in at 2-and-a-half hours, it flew right by. For people who haven't read the books, it moves at a very good pace, with very little down time, and it's a good start at teaching people about the characters. Since the Sorcerer's Stone is the first of seven books, I know the author (J.K. Rowling) has got story lines all planned out for all seven books. That means that while the plot about the Stone itself wasn't strong, it also wasn't the point. The book is supposed to be a set-up of characters, places and ideas that carry you through all seven books. So if you're wondering why there wasn't more emphasis put on plotting, that's why.

For those of you that have read at least the first book (and if you read one, you can't help but go out and get the next three), the movie moves along almost too quickly. If you're like me, you wanted to just sit in the theater all day and see every scene played out like it was in the book. I didn't even feel the time pass by while I sat there, mesmerized by what I saw on screen. Yes, there were some scenes missing (like the bank scene and a lot of what happens at 4 Privet Drive), and yes, there were some scenes that were changed (like the series of obstacles Harry, Ron and Hermione go through near the end - the movie had the plant trying to kill them while the book had a word puzzle that only Harry and Hermione went through). And yes, a lot of what I call 'transition' scenes were missing (scenes that go between the major hit points that in the book are amazing to read about). But in the end, the movie was a great experience. If you love Harry Potter as much as I do, you'll want to see this movie again and again.

So overall Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a fantastic ride. For those of us who have read the book, it was amazing to see the words we've all read so many times before, come to life in front of us. If you haven't read the books, I strongly urge you to do so. They are absolutely amazing reads, and you won't be disappointed. It'll also help prepare you for the next film, which I believe started shooting today, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in which we learn more about Harry's past, and the beginnings of the evil Lord Voldemort. The more I think about the movie, the more I enjoy it, and I think I'm going to go out and see it again.

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reviewed 11/16/01

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