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REVIEW HARRY POTTER AND . THE PHILOSOPHER’S ’ STONE (PG) 152 mins
Imagine Grange Hill crossed with Alice in Wonderland. Imagine The Double Deckers crossed with Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Imagine the grin that hasn’t left my face yet.
Director Chris Columbus has remained true not just to the spirit but, in many cases, the letter of J.K. Rowling’s original novel. That’s not from any misplaced sense of loyalty. It’s because behind the imaginative flourishes, the witty wordplay and the novelty details of her invented netherworld of witches and wizards, Rowling laid down a narrative of classical shape. For Columbus to have deviated would have been unfaithful, yes — when was a book ever faithful to you? - but more crucially, irrational. She wrote it like that for good reason.
So with a nip and tuck and _ only the occasional skip, the ' film follows closely in the ‘ " steps of the tale of the orphan
boy Harry, who grows up in . suburbia with the dreadful
\ Dursley family, little realising that he’s of wizard stock. Only when the owls start delivering letters inviting him to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry does he learn his true nature. Aided by his new classmates, Ron and Hermione, he sniffs out the evil Voldemort, the dark wizard who killed his parents and left him with his trademark lightning scar. And all before the summer holidays.
Like the novel, the film is unsentimental, no hint of the icky whimsy that Spielberg would surely have brought. Rather, it is sustained by a set of superbly dry performances by the all-British cast (children included) and rewarded by the true, well-earned emotion of an honourable quest successfully fought.
And where this adaptation really succeeds is in those glorious moments when it takes Rowling’s vision and trumps it; the paintings that really do move in the background; the chess set that comes viciously to life; and the game of quidditch, played with the passion of football and the ferocity of rollerball. It’s a marvellous realisation of a marvellous book. (Mark Fisher)
15— 2‘.) Nov 2001 THE LIST 1 1