At 2 and 1/2 Hours, Potter’s ‘Goblet’ Overfloweth
The arrival of the fourth installment of the wickedly successful series, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” seems an opportune time for a reminder about the rules of reviewing. One of the most important indicators of a film’s success is the degree to which it achieves its objective. If it’s a comedy, was it funny? An action pic better set your pulse to racing, and a romance had better set your heart aflutter.
And while a film adapted from a book ought to retain the spirit of its source material, it should first and foremost be a good film. If you need to have read the book to either understand or enjoy the movie from which it is adapted, then the movie has failed its primary objective: To entertain.
“Goblet of Fire” has a lot of ground to cover (the book was over 700 pages long), and it tries valiantly to cover that territory using a seemingly endless array of fascinating effects and magnificent set pieces. “Goblet” also introduces some interesting new characters, in particular Mad Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), who gives the film an impressive look.
The primary intention of this episode is to chronicle the maturation of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), and his pals Ronald (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). After attending the Quidditch World Cup (unfortunately the film shows almost none of the action), the gang witnesses the destructive power of the Death Eaters, the followers of Lord Valdemort who burn and pillage the stadium grounds. It quickly becomes clear that this installment is going to be darker and more graphic than the previous films. Harry’s fans had better be growing up along with him.
Back in the safer confines of Hogwarts School, Professor Dumledore (Michael Gambon) announces the Triwizard Tournament. A champion from each of the three wizarding schools is selected, with the underage Harry also mysteriously being chosen to compete in the grueling competition. The competition itself includes evading a fire-breathing dragon, a daring underwater rescue and navigating a maze with a mind of its own. Unfortunately, it never quite captures the sense of peril or thrill that a great action adventure film should. Let’s just say “Goblet” won’t make you forget “Dragonslayer,” “Jaws” or “The Shining.”
As enchanting as Hermione looks in her gown, the Yule Ball scene is another bit of tempting eye candy that is saddled with clunky dialogue. As Harry musters the courage to ask Cho Chang (Katie Lueng) to accompany him, Ron’s jealousy increases, and a tantrum by Hermione causes one to wonder if these scenes were penned by the nuance-challenged Jedi Master himself, George Lucas.
None of this muddled direction is a surprise coming from director Mike Newell, who is responsible for such middling fare as “Donnie Brasco,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and “Mona Lisa Smile.” What in the world prepared him for making a special effects-laden action film featuring hormonally stimulated teenagers?
We still love the trio, despite its acting shortcomings and bad hairstyles. But we ache for even a smidgen of truly witty banter. On a positive note, the ominous conclusion evokes some true terror. Unlike the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy where three hours zipped by, “Goblet’s” two-and-a-half hours offer plenty of opportunities to watch the clock.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.