DVD: Wizardry on DVD
J.K. Rowling's young hero comes to life on DVD, and the package - with its virtual tour of Hogwarts and its lessons in Quidditch - will delight even the most obsessed Harry Potter fans.
By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 30, 2002
New and noteworthy for digital players
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (special widescreen edition)
[Photo: Warner Bros.]
Daniel Radcliffe, center, stars as the young wizard in the movie version of J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.
Harry Potter makes another leap toward omnipotence with this week's release of his first blockbuster movie in a two-disc DVD set. The package, like the movie, is magical.
First, Warners Home Video should be commended for forgetting its usual practice of releasing a sure-to-be-popular title in the most basic manner possible, then forcing consumers to buy improved packages later. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is shown in the widescreen format it deserves, the better to admire Stuart Craig's production design. The transfer to home video is suitable for pausing on your favorite frames.
In case you need a synopsis: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in a series of adventures written by J.K. Rowling, tracing the scholarly path of a young wizard, played by Daniel Radcliffe. This movie depicts Harry's beginnings as an orphan unaware of his supernatural potential, his shaping it at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, then using it to find the titular stone and thwart a devious teacher.
Even after three viewings, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone feels like a movie with a central hero who will endure, like Willy Wonka and Dorothy Gale before him. Like all first episodes in the movies, this one takes its time building characters and situations, plus satisfying millions of readers looking for their favorite parts on screen.
Potterphiles will likely spend more time with the second disc devoted entirely to bonus features with only a few minutes of behind-the-scenes material. Director Chris Columbus and his technicians speak about their duty to J.K. Rowling's novel but thankfully don't betray too much of their own magic.
The majority of the extras are extensions of the story, such as a 360-degree virtual tour of Gryffindor House, with a stuffy narrator pointing out locations of events that aren't in the movie, but Rowling's readers will know by heart: "On the right is where Harry and Ron sat beside the fireplace during the Christmas holidays, when Harry got his sweater from Mrs. Beasley."
A similar tour of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry offers complete lessons in the game of Quidditch using film footage. Catch the golden snitch with a well-timed click, and more background on the game is accessed. Another virtual tour of Hagrid's hut is as easy as clicking on his faithful companion, Fang.
Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is a giant who befriends Harry Potter.
One avenue takes users down Diagon Alley, after they select the correct combination of tapped bricks to make an entire wall fold open. Ponder the combination too long and the narrator will snipe: "Caught in a full body bind? Come on, this isn't the devil's snare." Visit the owl emporium and Ollivanders Wand Shop for the required wizard's tools, but first pick up your Galleons, Sickles and Knuts from Gringott the elfish, selfish banker.
Look for the bags of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and click to see an assortment tasted by the narrator, with described tastes as sweet as chocolate and icky as sardines. The library and classrooms of Hogwarts lead to various audio and video bites (including brief snippets of deleted footage but no extra scenes), a flute game and a mildly scary moment for the youngest viewers. The set also features a DVD-ROM option providing printable trading cards, a Sorting Hat game and Web rummage.
There are plenty of diversions on the second disc to keep Harry Potter's avid fans occupied for an afternoon or two. Then, there's the movie that should be an ambient babysitter when the games get old. Children will love it, and parents may wind up hoping Rowling comes up with that next book soon.
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