Abracadabra

Potter-mania finally hits!

Deciding to animate one of the most popular fantasy stories of the day was as natural as attempting to read the book. And luckily for Joanne Rowling, the author, the film came pretty close to the real thing without badly mutilating it.

"Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone" is the long-winded eponym of a tale narrating the magic life of an 11 year old, Harry Potter, and the adventures he encounters.

When J.K. Rowling began writing the first of the Potter series in a run down eatery, she had no idea that Harry would soon become a household name, with millions of fans worldwide, and that she was soon to join the league of children's-book writers like Enid Blyton.

Harry (Daniel Rdcliffe) lives with his maternal aunt and uncle, and their over-sized, porky little son, Dudley. The Dursleys ill-treat Harry, making him sleep in a cupboard below the staircase, with measely rations to live by.

Strange things happen around Harry, and there seem to be even stranger, inexplicable forces that continually surround him. Like the army of owls that lay siege to his uncle’s cottage and the python in the zoo that tells him a thing or two.

Only on Harry's 11th birthday does he come to know of his so-called "abysmal" make-up - he is actually a wizard with famous wizard and witch parents.

He's then whisked off to a special school for young witches and wizards called Hogwarts, where the timetable for the day has lessons like "Defence Against The Dark Arts", "Potions", "Arithmancy". Each student is equipped with broomstick, cloak and wand, and has an owl as a personal postal carrier. A vivid description of life at Hogwarts, with its Quiddich matches, ghouls and poltergeists, builds towards a series of untoward events with a more menacing problem at the core - the Philosopher’s Stone, a treasure that is in danger of being stolen.

Chris Columbus in this making, has employed much material to recreate the book, setting up elaborate sets and ensuring that the techno wizardry in the story was faithfully replicated. The Quiddich match, a game played in the air, fleshed out an illusion that print couldn’t completely interpret. The screenplay by Steven Kloves was obedient to the original story with no attempts at increasing the overall weightage, nor taking away unless imperative.

The cast could have done better, with Radcilffe throwing a slightly tepid performance as the mild-mannered Harry, although he fit the physical bill well enough. Grint, as Ron, was perhaps best cast, emoting expressively, while Watson managed Granger’s precocity with a sometimes-wooden slant.

The movie is engaging and rapturous, like a story well told, though it seems to cater to a more pre-teen audience and does little more than it was expected to.

This article was first published on 14 Mar 2002.