Movie Review
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Chamber of Secrets poster
By Craig Younkin     Published December 1, 2002
US Release: November 15, 2002

Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe , Emma Watson , Kenneth Branagh , Rupert Grint

Running Time: 161 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $261,979,634
Chris Columbus again does another flawless directing job
Harry Potter is quickly proving that he can hold his own when it comes to creating a classic.

The series is only two years old, but from the first two films anyway we've already seen some of the most delightfully inspired filmmaking in quite some time.

I can't stop praising J.K. Rowling, the creator of all this. Her characters are charming, intelligent and witty, and the world that she creates is filled with some of the juiciest ideas and creations that anyone from any age group would find absolutely breathtaking. And who better to bring it all to the screen than Chris Columbus, a guy whose strong point has always been making quality movies for the whole family.

What they have come up with in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is extraordinary. It's even better than the first one. The first Harry Potter was interested in the gimmicks of Rowling's book, but while this is still interested, the story is also engaging as well. It gives you a taste of both an interesting mystery and also a few ideas on what to expect for the future. It's also starting to get a little darker, and to my surprise, just a tiny bit scarier.

As the story continues, Harry is back in London with The Dursleys (his non-magic aunt and uncle) who still despise him for his wizard status. He again is not receiving any letters from Hogwarts, but this time it is for a different reason. Harry is visited one night by a masochistic house elf named Dobby who tells him that he is in great danger if he goes back to school. The elf has stolen all of the letters addressed to Harry and will go to any means necessary to keep Harry out of school, including crashing a dinner party that puts him under house arrest.

He can't stop old friends, though. Harry awakes to find his buddy, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and brothers outside his window in a flying car. After a daring escape, Harry and Ron pick up the supplies they need and prepare to meet the train, only they hit a brick wall (literally). The gateway to the train to Hogwarts closes before they can get through, forcing Ron to steal his father's flying car. This not only almost gets them killed, but also expelled. When they arrive at Hogwarts, Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), the professor against the dark arts and also leader of the Slytheren house, tells them that Muggles saw them flying the car. This already puts Harry in a deep hole where he can't afford any more reckless behavior. But, when it rains it pours.

Shortly after arriving, we find that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. In this chamber lies a deadly creature that could cause serious harm to anyone who looks at it. Before long, kids are being petrified and the school is on a heightened state of alert. Not only that, but Harry is also being blamed for opening it in the first place. Not only that, but he also has to deal with the handsome Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), a famous author and new teacher of the defense against the dark arts at Hogwarts, whose more about ego than he is about substance.

This all wraps up into a tidy little mystery where Harry, Ron, and their teachers' pet (other buddy), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), must do whatever it takes to figure out who really opened the chamber. Screenwriter Steve Kloves does a great job of adapting J.K. Rowling's work, constantly keeping us guessing till the very end. Half of the fun of both Harry Potter movies has been sorting through the various red herring characters, and there are many of them here.

Chris Columbus again does another flawless directing job. His seamlessly breathtaking special effects, which include a book that transports Harry to the past and a flying car, only increase the magic and enchantment of Rowlings' book. Columbus also does nice work in handling the story's darker elements, making a thrilling and intense film for all ages.

The acting is also flawless, especially from the three leads. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson have achieved a charming chemistry together that is both funny and endearing. The surprise is that you're not just rooting for Harry Potter, but for all three of them. Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and the late Richard Harris all do wonderful work again as the school faculty, professor McGonagall, professor Snape, and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore respectively. Then you also have the newcomers who almost steal the whole movie. Jason Isaacs sneers and has a ball with the evil father of Harry's nemesis, Draco Malfoy, and Kenneth Branagh is hilarious as the glory-hound dark arts professor who is more of an absent minded one.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has action, humor and above all, a lot of creativity. It leaves you cringing at the thought of having to wait another two years for the next one. Still, if you haven't gotten on to this series yet, you now have the time too. If you don't, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Craig's Grade: A-
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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