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Darker Harry Potter still enjoyable

BILLY NORRIS
Published June 7, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Rating: PG for frightening moments, creature violence and mild language.

Summary: Legendary young wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has returned for his third year of study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This time, though, everyone on the campus and in the world of wizardry is questioning their safety in the usually secure school. The highly dangerous Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who, legend has it, was one of Voldemort's cohorts and supposedly aided in the killing of Harry's parents, has escaped from the high-security prison Azkaban. It appears he is coming to finish the job and kill Harry.

My view: This film marks a distinct change in the style and ambience of the movies in this series, just as the third novel in the Harry Potter series marked a change in the direction of J.K. Rowling's saga. Alfonso Cuaron comes on board as the new director and offers up this new vision. It is a much darker film, much more geared toward entertaining older teenagers and adults. Missing is that bubbly charm that overflowed from the first two films. The plot is intricate; I had trouble keeping up, especially toward the end. All the loose ends are tied up in the end, quite nicely in fact, but it is a rocky road to the closing scene.

Richard Harris, the original Dumbledore, died before the filming of this installment, and he was replaced by Michael Gambon, who slips right into the head wizard's role without missing a beat. Several new characters are introduced, including wise Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), the new defense against the dark arts teacher. He is a tremendous help to Harry but carries his own dark secret. Then there is the hippielike divination professor, Sibyll Trelawney, portrayed with flair by Emma Thompson. My favorite computer-generated addition is an all-too-amusing creature named Buckbeak. It is half horse and half eagle. Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) are back as strong supporting characters. All in all, this movie was a lot deeper than expected, but it was still remarkably well done and completely enjoyable.

Recommendations: This flick does not cater to the audience the first two did. It is perhaps more worthy of a PG-13 rating than its predecessors because of its violent and dark nature, but you won't be able to keep Harry Potter fans of all ages away. Just be forewarned that some scenes will frighten younger fans. The movie is more appropriate for those 13 and older.

Grade: B+

- Billy Norris, 16, will be in 11th grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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