review for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on AllMovie

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
by Derek Armstrong review

For all but the most nitpicking Potterphiles out there, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is nothing less than the perfect visual incarnation of J.K. Rowling's world of swooping owls and flying broomsticks. However, it's never precisely more than that, either; the very act of giving image and voice to these rich literary precepts places them in a realm inevitably less magical than the imagination. Still, it's hard to picture a more essentially faithful adaptation of Rowling's tone and story, which weighs in at a hefty two and a half hours despite streamlining some of the more vestigial elements of a quick 300-page read. Steve Kloves' adaptation of the wildly popular bestseller lingers less on some of the episodic Hogwarts' adventures, only briefly touching on such red herring plot points as the wise centaur and Hagrid's dragon. The eye-popping visuals have numerous other opportunities to shine, chief among them the grippingly rendered Quidditch match, in which players on broomsticks zoom and jockey like the speeder bikes of Endor in Return of the Jedi. It's no surprise that Harry Potter should occasionally invoke a Star Wars movie, since its hero is an orphaned boy who yearns for a destiny beyond what his aunt and uncle can provide, and who possesses unparalleled mystical powers that the dark side seeks to corrupt. The landscape Chris Columbus and cinematographer John Seale have created -- with its levitating banquet hall decorations, animated games of wizard chess, ominous trolls, and three-headed dogs -- is of equal vividness and complexity as that galaxy far, far away, and it should make just as much if not more money. Besides the film's many technical achievements, the actors really deliver, well beyond the who's who of British thespians who comprise the Hogwarts' teachers. Daniel Radcliffe has the look and reluctant heroism of Harry down perfectly, if a little too languidly; he's bested by Emma Watson's deliciously petulant and precocious Hermione, as well as the masterful line deliveries and comic timing of Rupert Grint as Ron.