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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris


St. Petersburg Times Online

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'Harry Potter' brings book to life

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[Photos: Warner Bros.]

By BILLY NORRIS, Times X-Team
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 19, 2001

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Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Rating: PG

Summary: An 11-year-old boy named Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), who happens to be a wizard, is finally taken away from his awful Muggle (non-wizard) family and sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn his heritage. He is befriended by Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), an imposing giant who is the caretaker and keeper of the keys at Hogwarts. He also meets up with some other first-year students, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), who become his best friends at school.

When Harry was a baby, his parents were killed by a dark wizard named Voldemort who also tried to kill Harry. But Harry survived and in the process weakened Voldemort, making Harry well-known to all in the wizard world. Well, Voldemort is still out there somewhere and is seeking the Sorcerer's Stone, which contains the elixir of life that can restore him to full, immortal health. This movie tells the story of Harry's very interesting first year at Hogwarts with all of its adventures, including a confrontation with Voldemort himself.

My View: This film was very good. I had high expectations, and this movie seemed to meet just about all of them. While reading the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, I developed vivid pictures in my head of the characters and their surroundings. This movie portrayed these visions almost exactly as I imagined them. The tiny dwarf goblins working at Gringotts Bank, and the giant troll who found his way into Hogwarts School are two good examples of characters in the book being brought to life. There was obviously a great deal of effort put into making that happen.

I was interested in seeing how they were going to portray the Quidditch matches. Quidditch is the complicated sport of wizards, played on flying broomsticks. I thought it would be difficult to make it seem real on the big screen, but the moviemakers did an admirable job.

The length of the movie (2 1/2 hours!) was another thing I considered. I thought that would be too long, but it actually went by very quickly, without dragging at all.

Favorite Part: I thought the Hagrid character was awesome! Actor Robbie Coltrane had a physical appearance and personality perfectly suited to portray the traits given this good-hearted giant in the book.

Least Favorite Part: Some of the things in the movie weren't explained as fully as they were in the book. The movie flowed well in spite of that, but there were a few things I thought should have been included. Most notably, at the end of the book, Harry, Hermione and Ron had to figure out a logic riddle to get one step closer to the Sorcerer's Stone. To me, that was an integral part of the story line, but it was deleted from the film.

Recommendations: I spoke to a few kids on my way out of the theater. "I really liked the magic. It was really cool," said 9-year-old Nicolas Garofano of Tampa, who had not yet read any of the Harry Potter books.

His little sister, Alexis, who had just turned 6, said she understood the movie just fine. Her mom asked her several times during the movie if she was scared, and her answer each time was no. Even their mom and dad enjoyed it.

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Eleven-year-old Matthew Middlebrooks of Tampa had read the first book. "It was great! I really enjoyed the Quidditch parts. They were well done," he said. "But they cut out some of the specific details, like when they were under the trap door," referring to the scene I mentioned at the end of the movie.

I would recommend this movie for about ages 8 and up. Fans of the book series won't be disappointed, but they surely will notice the parts that were left out. Even those unfamiliar with the books can enjoy this film.

* * *

Grade: A-

-- Billy Norris, 14, is in the eighth grade at Seminole Middle School, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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