Coming off the most vivid and satisfying entry in the series, Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the fourth installment can't help but seem a little disappointing. But that's not because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has trouble keeping pace in the technical department, which might have been a concern given director Mike Newell's background in small-scale fare like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Donnie Brasco. No, the problem is built into the book. As J.K. Rowling tipped the scales with a novel almost 300 pages longer than any previous, the film version can't help but suffer from a sprawling quality that detracts from its cohesiveness. The Tri-Wizard Tournament certainly showcases some of the most glorious Potter visuals yet -- a gladiator-style dragon battle and an underwater rescue mission (Harry sprouts fins!) chief among them. But as an exhibition involving students -- even in the wizard world -- it gives pause, having irresponsibly dire hazards built in for the participants, some of whom are totally unwitting. (Such dark elements prompted the series' first PG-13 rating.) There's also a major plot contrivance that never sits well, namely, that Harry's friends turn against him over an incident not dissimilar to numerous others in his Hogwart's history, involving him being thrust into school-wide prominence ahead of the development of his peers. Given Harry's extreme celebrity, this should be par for the course rather than cause for abandonment. Overall, when making quibbles about a Harry Potter movie, it's all relative, and The Goblet of Fire continues the series' fine tradition, its stars transitioning into their late teens without seeming overly awkward. It's only appropriate that the threats against them should become more adult, a trend that will only deepen as future novels hit the screen.
by Derek Armstrong review