Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

"Very Good"

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban Review


Harry Potter is growing up, and so is his movie franchise.Under the tutelage of a new director -- Alfonso Cuarón, known for both children's fare (the 1995 remake of "A Little Princess") and an edgy, insightfully soulful, sex-charged teen road-trip flick ("Y Tu Mama, Tambien") -- the boy wizard has graduated from the world of kiddie movie spectacles with tie-in toys.

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is a film in which depth of character, cunning humor and hair-raising chills come shining through the visual blitzkrieg of special effects -- which are also magnificently improved over the series first two installments. Case in point: a half-horse, half-eagle creature called a Hippogriff that gives "Lord of the Rings'" Gollum a run for his money as the most life-like CGI creation in cinema history.

Beyond just its detailed feathers (which fluff when it shakes) or its golden eyes (which bore holes in the screen with obstinate personality), this winged equine's every movement, from its canter to its peck, is a studied yet natural, amazingly fluid amalgam of the two beasts that were combined to create it.

More nebulous but no less realistic are the terrifying Dementors -- towering, faceless, floating Grim-Reaper-like ghosts whose tattered, wind-blown robes give the appearance of hellish jellyfish. They play an integral part in the plot, hunting for a dark wizard named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), the only inmate ever to escape the legendary lock-up that gives the film its title.

Black's breakout threatens not only Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but Harry Potter in particular. He soon learns this villain was once a friend of his murdered parents and is thought to be the Judas responsible for leading them to their deaths at the hands of the as-yet-unseen, uber-warlock Lord Voldemort.

Having finally pent up enough fury and pubescent petulance to stand up to his horrible muggle aunt and uncle, the film begins with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) illegally using magic to wreak a little havoc on their restrictive household before packing off trans-dimensionally for another year at Hogwarts.

Older, bolder and more pro-active, in this movie Harry becomes a real hero under whose chest beats the strong, if seething and bewildered, heart of a lion. When he discovers Black's history Harry declares, "I hope he finds me! Because when he does, I'm gonna be ready. When he does, I'm gonna kill him!"

Thanks to the growing talent of Radcliffe, who has become more natural and engaging with each "Potter" picture, this moment is riveting to a character-defining degree. There's no doubt he means it, even if we and he both know deep down the boy is ill-prepared for such a showdown -- and there's no doubt we're seeing a Harry Potter who is leaving preadolescence behind.

Harry's best friends, cheeky over-achiever Hermione and misfit redhead Ron, and the young actors who play them, Emma Watson and Rubert Grint, have grown as well, which helps Cuarón and screenwriter Steve Cloves to dispense with exposition and get down to real character development.

This is especially true of scenes in which Harry bonds with the school's latest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (the sublimely elusive David Thewlis), who was a dear friend of the young wizard's parents and who teaches Harry protective incantations to use against the indiscriminately dangerous, fear-feeding Dementors. But Lupin may not be what he seems.

While holding fast to the spirit of the "Harry Potter" books and films -- complete with the deliciously astute scenery-chewing of Alan Rickman as ominous Professor Snape and the usual grand performances from Maggie Smith (persnickety Professor McGonagall) and Robbie Coltrane (mountainous, soft-hearted handyman Hagrid) -- in Cuarón's hands an artful evolution takes place that transcends the franchise's popular appeal. This film is intelligent and incisive, especially in its execution of author J.K. Rowling's trademark plot twists. It has a shadowy, otherworldly style that doesn't feel market-tested and pre-packaged for the lowest common denominator.

And yet, it's the most accessibly engaging and amusing of the three "Potter" films so far, beginning with its very first chapter, in which Harry boards a magic, invisible-to-muggles triple-decker bus after leaving home, which takes him on a wild amusement-park-like ride careening through the streets of London.

Nearly every scene in Hogwarts is packed with background humor (often thanks to the school's living paintings), and the movie is blessed with an ingenious, scene-stealing turn from Emma Thompson ("Sense and Sensibility") as Divination Professor Trelawney, a tactless, off-kilter, hocus-pocus hippie who teaches crystal-ball and tea-leaf reading. (Stepping in for the late Richard Harris, Michael Gambon is also delightful as a familiar, yet delightfully different, headmaster Dumbledore.)

The handful of problems "Azkaban" has are actually inherent to the story -- a few plot developments inspire "why don't they just...?" questions, the beginning of the third act gets briefly lost in a lull of its own convolutions, and school bully Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) now seems like too much of a scaredy-cat to rouse any respect from his cronies or fear from anyone else.

But Cuarón's command of the story is so strong that he barely blinks as he steers a course through these minor obstacles, which are no worse than the ones that sometimes tripped up the series' first two installments, directed with charm but considerably less savoir-faire by "Home Alone's" Chris Columbus.

This is far and away the best "Harry Potter" movie yet. But one word of warning to parents of small children: It's also the scariest.



Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Facts and Figures

Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy

Run time: 142 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th June 2004

Box Office USA: $249.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $789.8M

Budget: $130M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: 1492 Pictures, Warner Bros., Heyday Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 225 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Harry Potter, as Ron Weasley, as Hermione Granger, as Sirius Black, as Professor Lupin, as Professor Snape, as Professor Dumbledore, as Rubeus Hagrid, as Draco Malfoy, Josh Herdman as Gregory Goyle, as Professor Trelawney, as Professor McGonagall, as Ginny Weasley, as Aunt Marge, as Uncle Vernon, as Lily Potter, as Molly Weasley, as Fred Weasley, as Neville Longbottom

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.