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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Maggie Smith and David Thewlis
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Scriptwriter: Steve Kloves (adapted from the J. K. Rowling book)
Music: John Williams
Warner Brothers
Running Time: two hours and 10 minutes
Rating: PG

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the long-awaited third film in the best-selling book series by J. K. Rowling. Lest you fret, scriptwriter Steve Kloves is busy adapting Rowlings fourth Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for the screen. Former Potter director Chris Columbus is now a Potter producer and Alfonso Cuaron (A Little Princess, Great Expectations and Y Tu Mama Tambien) is now at the helm. As the books progress, the plots become darker and deeper, so Cuaronís hand as director is appreciated and he does a good job. John Williamsí score is lively and not overwhelming, and of course, the special effects are wonderful. 
This story begins with Harry staying with his aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin. The family entertains a friend who thinks Harry is at the bottom of the heap, social-wise. Harry canít take it anymore (youthful temper) and does magic when he isnít supposed to. The family friend expands to the size of the Goodyear blimp and sails blissfully over London. Back to Hogwarts goes Harry, with the help of a Knight Bus for just such emergency situations. We should all be so lucky. Harry learns he is in danger from Sirius Black, who broke out of Azkaban Prison and was accused in the murder of Harryís parents. Sirius is being chased by creatures called Dementers, who look like teen versions of The Lord of the Rings wraiths. These guys freeze all in their path and like to suck the breath out of you. Harryís friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) band together to protect Harry and find out what is really happening at Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is there, too, as the student villain. Your favorite teachers are here including Hagrid the giant (Ronnie Coltrane) Professor Dumbledore (now played by an ineffective Michael Gambon), the oily Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) and, with glasses as large as telescopes, the Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney (Emma Thompson.) 
Each Potter film has a new type of animal and here we have the Hippogriff which is half eagle and half horse. This guy plays an important part in the film and probably will have his own fan club and website soon. A Quiddich match in a thunderstorm is in special effects heaven, as are the Dementers whenever they make an appearance, or anything concerned with Hogwarts. The choir, complete with ethereal candles, or the view from any Hogwarts window is sure to please.
The trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint is maturing into handsome teens, and with their heightened acting abilities (especially Radcliffe), should find good careers as they leave their teens. Grint especially has good comedic timing. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore has a physical resemblance to the late Richard Harris, but none of his authority. Emma Thompsonís awkward divination instructor resembles a youthful Carol Burnett, while Robbie Coltrane, as Hagrid, is still the lovable giant. Alan Rickmanís Snape would make anyone from a Charles Dickens novel shake in his or her boots. An unrecognizable Gary Oldman as Sirius Black was a casting coup. In fact, the entire cast is well, well cast, with the exception of Michael Gambon. Wasnít Peter OToole available? Perhaps he was in Troy.
Having read all the Potter books to this point, it is with trepidation that I approach the films, but I havenít been wholly disappointed. Azkaban has a great deal of material to cover, and Steve Kloves hops on the high points so that anyone new to the series can follow it along. The film has a PG rating, but would not be appropriate for children under age ten. 
The Harry Potter books began a whirlwind of writing concerning wizards in childrenís books and whether this is appropriate for a Christian to read. That question may be answered by the fact that another book, also from Great Britain, by G. P. Taylor called Shadowmancer is available for young teens. A recent book review of Shadowmancer by Greg Taylor in the June 2004 issue of Christianity Today is headlined with A Christian Harry Potter? The Harry Potter books deal with evil as evil, period. However, Shadowmancer has the community upside-down with a vicar, a man of the cloth no less, being the bad guy. It will be interesting to see if there is a continuation of the Taylor books or if Shadowmancer makes it to the large screen.
Oh, and Harry Potters scar? Harrys famous lightning scar was in the middle of his forehead, then on the left side of his head, and then back to the forehead again. His luggage appears, disappears and reappears. Oh, well, this is a magic film, so what should I have expected?
Copyright 2004 Marie Asner
Submitted 6/5/04



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