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"Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets"

DOES THE magic work the second time round? Just about. While all the splendid magic in the book comes alive in the movie because of those jaw-dropping special effects, J. K. Rowling's wit and rich characterisation get left behind in her surprising, lovely prose.

Chris Columbus's direction is competent but workmanlike. It lacks imagination, something the Rowling books have plenty of. "Chamber of Secrets" will please the Potter fans who are looking for fidelity but will disappoint those who would have liked the movie to be more of a free wheeling adaptation than the literal translation it is.

The Harry Potter movies are in danger of becoming a franchise - an event more than a movie. It is second term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Harry (Daniel Radcliff) once again finds himself in the company of his old, beloved classmates, Ron Weasly (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson). They embark on another adventure as they stumble on to a secret chamber that houses a terrible beast. The actors who play the teachers are good fun to watch - especially Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lochhart, the Defence Against The Dark Arts tutor and the late great Richard Harris once again playing Dumbledore, the headmaster. Dobby, a wrinkled elfin like creature, is a strange and wondrous creation (uncannily a little like the Golan in "The Two Towers").

Columbus's pacing in the "Sorcerer's Stone" ("Philosopher's Stone" in the British version) and "The Chamber of Secrets" is dutiful - he follows each book chapter by chapter, episode by episode so that no Potter reader will be disappointed. Children might feel my complaints to be the mere quibbles of an adult who has, unfortunately, grown up. And they are probably right.

Columbus will not be directing the rest of the series and will be replaced by Alfonso Cuaron, the director of "The Little Princess", one of the best film adaptations of a children's book ever made. And so, "Prisoner of Azkaban", the next in the Potter series, will be something to look forward to. Curaon is a filmmaker who can (and often does) do magic with books. It's an old Hogwarts belief: only a wizard can take on another wizard.


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