Directed by Chris Columbus, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane.
I must confess – I'm a Harry Potter fan. Despite having to wrest them from my youngest brother and sister, I've read all the books (several times), bought Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, bemoaned the delay in the fifth instalment of the series and waited with baited breath for the much hyped film of the first, 'Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone'. Now it's here – but has it been worth waiting for?
For those of you who haven't read the books, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) lives on 4, Privet Drive with his horrible horse-faced Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw), fat Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and their spoilt son, Dudley. Treated as a skivvy by the family, Harry sleeps in a miserable cupboard under the stairs. But everything changes on his eleventh birthday when he is visited by a friendly giant called Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) who delivers the startling news that Harry is actually a wizard. Enrolled in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is whisked away and introduced to a world of spells, mystery, magic – and, most importantly, friendship.
Visually, the film is gorgeous. It looks amazing and obviously no expense has been spared in bringing JK Rowling's dizzyingly detailed imaginings – from moving portraits to wandering, Escher-like staircases – to the big screen. The realisation of locations like Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Castle is stunning, even if the special effects occasionally let the side down. The cast reads like a who's who of quality British actors from John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick to Robbie Coltrane's heartwarming and scene-stealing portrayal of the sentimental Hagrid.
Despite all the trappings however, the film is ultimately missing a heart. And here we come to the crux of the matter: 'Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone' is centred around one character – Harry, and Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, is simply not good enough. Initially shaky, Radcliffe settles more into the part after the first half hour but by the time the credits roll you're longing to wipe that inane smirk off his face. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, as Harry's school friends Ron and Hermione are by turns funny, touching and convincing, unlike Radcliffe.
Not quite what we were waiting for, but go and see the film by all means, it's still a rip roaringly good tale: Enid Blyton crossed with Indiana Jones, ending with a James Bond-style showdown between Harry and the villain of the piece, with a debt to JRR Tolkien en route. But don't believe the hype – Potter-mania film-style isn't all it promised to be.