Harry Potter was too much of phenomenon to stay on paper, and in 2001 the first book became a box office hit. Chris Columbus was chosen to direct, mostly because he was used to directing kids in films like Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Harry Potter’s mostly British cast would use virtual unknown child actors and established film stars to play the adults.
It was really risky hiring Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. If he sucked the whole franchise would have fallen apart. He looks the part, and plays the part pretty well, but he is still just a kid in this and not much of an actor. He gets the job done though, and so you have to give credit to everyone who saw his potential. At the time the movie was made, there were only three books out and 4 more yet to be written. No one knew if they were going to keep the same cast or have to replace them if they got too old. Rupert Grint plays Ron Weasley and Emma Watson rounds out the trio as Hermione Granger. Rupert Grint is naturally fun and great sidekick to Harry, but Emma Watson is the best actor of the three in this one. She is the most natural on camera. Inspired casting with the Hogwarts staff, but Alan Rickman steals the show as Snape. He can do more with a sentence than most could do with a four-minute monolog.
This is a bright happy kid’s movie. The later films get darker as the books become more adult orientated. Columbus does a great job establishing the look and feel of the wizarding world. He sets up a great foundation and establishes the general tone and mood for the later installments. He brings J.K. Rowling’s vision to life, and it is truly magical at times. The first time I saw this movie was in Spanish class, and dios mios, it blew me away. Even though I had no idea what that little nino was saying to his amigos nuevos en la escuela de magica, I knew that I was seeing the start of a great new franchise. The computer graphics and special effects are a little under par. Neville’s flying sequence and the bathroom troll seem really cartoony. The Quidditch scenes were also very boring and not fast enough. The Quidditch scenes also showcase Daniel Radcliffe’s most wooden acting in the entire franchise. Maybe he should have been drinking back then to loosen up a little.
Overall the film stays very loyal to the book. Only a few things are changed or cut from the film, nothing too major. The flow of the film gets a little clunky at times, and the acting a little amateur, but it is entertaining and rewatchable. A great start to a great film franchise.
Critically Rated at 14/17