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The Daily Tar Heel

'Harry Potter' Enchants Fans, Critics Alike

But you just can't bring yourself to do it -- Harry's first movie is great. It's enchanting and as imaginative and entertaining as any movie this year. Readers and nonreaders alike would be hard-pressed to find much wrong with the film.

After being orphaned as a baby, pre-adolescent Harry Potter (newcomer Daniel Radcliffe) sleeps in a cupboard under the stairs of his adoptive parents' present-day home. Invitations for Harry begin to arrive from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It's only then that Harry becomes aware of his magical lineage and blessed destiny.

Much has been made of Radcliffe's supposedly stilted acting (where's Haley Joel Osment when you need him?), but he's perfectly fine as the bespectacled boy wizard.

Maybe he ooh's and ahh's a bit too much, but that's director Chris Columbus' fault. He's a Spielberg clone, but up until now he hasn't lived up to his teacher's good name.

If anything, Radcliffe's performance suffers only in comparison to those of Harry's two wizard-in-training friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). Grint is funny as the hapless Ron, and Watson steals most of her scenes as know-it-all Hermione.

The film's brilliant stroke is its adult casting; the wise and weird faculty of Hogwarts is filled with British acting greats like Maggie Smith and Richard Harris.

Alan Rickman sneers memorably as Professor Snape, and Robbie Coltrane is a standout as gentle giant gamekeeper Hagrid. The weight they add to the film cannot be measured.

But the real stars, however lauded the cast, are the sets. Hogwarts is fantastically realized, from its floating candles to moving staircases. A scene of Quidditch -- a high-wire sport played on broomsticks -- is exciting and complex without seeming fake. The details poured into each scene in the film, from floorboards to bookshelves, fill out the movie.

It's a funny film, too, but not as clever as the book. Little of J.K. Rowling's book has been excised for the film, but the greatest loss in transition was the constant wit of Rowling's writing.

Therein lies Columbus' only misstep: He didn't cut anything out. Even though every plot development feels proper within the film, a 2 1/2 hour children's film about wonder seems less wondrous with every passing hour.

It's too long, and what's worse, it feels long. That's the unfortunate burden of movies based on books, and all the special effects in the world won't make you check your watch any less.

Overlong or not, "Harry Potter" is spellbinding. Anti-Potterheads might try to deny it, and anything as successful as this movie always faces a requisite backlash -- most of the time deservedly.

But "Harry Potter" beats the odds, and will probably continue to do so every Thanksgiving for the next six years -- which will probably piss people off even more.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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