Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is emotionally charged

***image1***  **** (Out of Four Stars)

I never was a big fan of the Harry Potter movies, my cynical adult self often unable to relate to a fantasy world aimed solely at kids. But as Harry and his Hogwarts chums have grown into teenagers, their movies have grown with them, reflecting a more adult, emotionally mature sensibility. The latest in the series, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is the most emotionally mature yet: showing life to be bittersweet, complicated and often unfair. And that is why, adult that I am, I think "Goblet of Fire" is the best Harry Potter movie to date. At this time in my life, it just strikes me as more realistic.

***image2***Now this isn’t to say that "Goblet of Fire," directed by Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") and adapted by Steve Kloves from J.K. Rowling’s best-selling novel, isn’t chock-a-block with magic and wonder. The plot revolves around Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) competing in the Tri-Wizard Tournament against young wizards from other countries, hardly the stuff of gritty kitchen-sink drama. The highlight of the tournament is a battle between Harry and a dragon the size of a jumbo jet, a sequence filled with eye-popping visual effects that transport us to a world as far away from our own as can be. Characters like Alastor Moody, with his mechanical zoom-lens eye, and Harry’s arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort, making his first appearance in the series as a hairless, noseless ghoul, have larger-than-life features that could only occur in a fantasy realm. (Believe me, one look at Lord Voldemort is enough to creep you out for weeks.)

But, at least in this critic’s opinion, "Goblet of Fire’s" emotional authenticity is what makes the film work, grounding the fantasy elements so effectively that we believe in a world where wizards and dragons co-exist with men. Like all teenagers, Harry and his chums Ron and Hermione struggle with confusing feelings of first love and romantic jealousy, something which complicates, and undermines, their friendship. We can also relate to peer pressure driving a wedge between Harry and Ron after Harry is ostracized by schoolmates who think he cheated to enter the tournament. And when a likable major character is murdered in shockingly abrupt fashion, Harry is helpless to prevent it, and unable to avenge the crime as well.

This last point is key to the movie’s success for me. Harry confronts mortality in a direct, personal way in "Goblet of Fire" and, like the rest of us at one time or another, learns the harsh lesson that life is unfair, that good people often die undeservedly, and that no one, not even an adolescent, is invincible when it comes to death. It’s bittersweet emotional truths like these that give "Goblet of Fire" its power, not computer-generated images of dragons frying the countryside with bursts of flame, no matter how exciting that may be.

One more thing. If "Goblet of Fire" is the most adult Harry Potter movie, it’s also the most frightening. It’s certainly the bloodiest in the series (there is a scene where a character cuts off his own arm!), so it well-deserves its PG-13 rating. Parents may want to consider this before taking very young children to see the movie.


Tom McCurrie is a regular contributor to Hollywoodlitsales.com.

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