Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter, ...
Credit: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Peter Mountain

After ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” grossed almost $1 billion worldwide — and reeled in untold golden galleons from videos, toys, and other tie-ins — did you really expect Warner Bros. to tinker with its magic formula? So, from the director to the production designer, everyone is back for this adaptation of the second book in J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular series.

In ”Chamber of Secrets,” Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint), and Hermione (Watson) return to the magical Hogwarts Academy a year older, but no less likely to run into arch-villain Voldemort. Or get into trouble with groundskeeper Hagrid (Coltrane). Or venture into the Forbidden Forest. Or have a ripsnorting Quidditch match against the Slytherin team. But the Potter team has made a conscious effort to deliver a darker, more action-heavy adventure this time around. ”And the kids are much better actors,” says Columbus. ”Since these movies take as long as three normal movies, it’s like they have six under their belts now. We’ve worked on Quidditch and some of the effects as well.”

The real change will be reserved for the third installment of the series, ”Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” slated for release in summer 2004. After Kloves completed his first draft of the screenplay, Columbus announced he would vacate the director’s chair in favor of a producing role–yielding to ”Y Tu Mamá También”’s Alfonso Cuarón.

And who did Cuarón beat out for the job? None other than ”Chamber of Secrets” star Kenneth Branagh. (According to producer Heyman, ”Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” director Callie Khouri was also briefly considered.) ”I think any director would think twice about directing something like this. It’s not going to happen and that’s fine by me,” says Branagh, who plays the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the perpetually self-impressed Gilderoy Lockhart. ”But I do really like the kids. They remain the way you would expect them to be at this age. They have not remotely grown into monsters.”

THE LOWDOWN If you liked the first one, you don’t need convincing. If not, you could always just wait for the next novel.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Movie
  • 161 minutes