The reviews for Daniel Radcliffe's first post-Harry Potter film are decidedly mixed. The Woman in Black is a period piece, a ghost story and a stage for Radcliffe to prove that he can become a far different character than Harry. Manohla Dargis in The New York Times suggests that he has only partially succeeded in doing so. "The ghost of Potter past hovers in his every gesture," she writes. "It will take time before many of us will be able to see the actor instead of his famous character, and time for him to shake that role off too." Yet she praises his ability to keep "the story steadily moving forward inch by inch, shiver by shiver." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times figures it might have been a mistake to cast Radcliffe in a role that might well have been more believably executed by an older actor with more gravitas. "At 22, he still looks like a schoolboy," he remarks. "The movie Nevertheless is effective," he says, "because director James Watkins knows it isn't a character study. His haunted house is the star." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star agrees. "It's a haunted-house shocker where the frights are foremost, especially the jumpy kind (there are a few good ones), and acting is almost beside the point. We quickly stop thinking about Harry," he observes. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe didn't stop thinking about Radcliffe's indelible icon, however. Radcliffe, he suggests, has opted to play a role in which his character is all "seriousness and suffering. It's how we we know he's a man. (He's even grown stubble for this part.) ... But we don't need any more prematurely old men in movies about lost souls." The Associated Press's Jake Coyle disagrees with Ebert and Morris. "Radcliffe looks respectably adult," he says. Coyle, too, has much praise for director Watkins. "It's obvious he's interested in using fright for more than just shock," he writes. The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips's take on Radcliffe "Quite good. I'd say he's on his way as a post-Potter entity." The film itself "a handsome nerve-jangler ... [that] amps up the scares without turning them into something completely stupid." Most of the critics agree that the movie has audiences jumping out of their seats time and again. But John Anderson in the Wall Street Journal calls Watkins scare tactics "shameless" and concludes, "A movie can only cry 'Boo!' so many times before the victim runs out of patience."

03/02/2012