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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, ...
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Peter Mountain

We expected great things from you, Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard, who keeps nations of readers young and old under his spell, should have come to sweet life in his feature-film debut. Sadly, his on-screen adventures are woefully inert, sucked dry of delight. Bound by the page rather than inspired by it, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a drag. Director Chris Columbus (”Mrs. Doubtfire”) might draw courage from Peter Jackson, who not only paid great respect to J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”The Lord of the Rings” but responded to it as well. Here, Columbus does such a rote retelling of book 1 that his film feels like a slick supplement; it hits all the story’s high points — a Quidditch game here, the twirl of an invisibility cloak there — without ever relaxing into real storytelling. If Columbus bows down before the book, Daniel Radcliffe is scared stiff, literally. His Harry is rigid: a stoic, capable young man that one need not waste time worrying about. Root instead for vulnerable Ron Weasley (played by the puffy-eyed Rupert Grint), anxious and amazed by the wand in his hand. Ron’s boyish stabs of courage during a wicked game of wizard chess are heartbreaking. Such a sidekick deserves better from his hero. We all do.