Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Review
By Joe Lozito
Mike Newell, whose directorial pedigree is as varied as "Donnie Brasco", "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles", turns out to be a better choice than anyone could have guessed for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
", the fourth entry in the Potter series. Where previous directors have emphasized the inherent magic in Harry's world, Mr. Newell keeps the proceedings surprisingly grounded, even during its most fantastical moments. This maturity serves the film well. Finally we're seeing Harry (the character and the series) grow up.
This time around, the plot involves the Tri-Wizard Tournament into which Harry is entered despite being underage - a fact that makes the object of contempt from his fellow Hogwartsians. And speaking of underage, the characters must also endure their toughest trial to date in the form of the traditional Yule Ball. It turns out there's no spell to thwart teen angst.
Like most of the set-pieces in the film, the Ball feels like ten pounds of script in a five-pound bag. This is Steven Kloves' fourth adaptation of the J.K. Rowling novels and, while it's his best work yet, he faces an almost insurmountable challenge - how to please Potter purists while keeping the uninitiated (myself included) out of the dark. Like its predecessors, the first moments of the film are a sloppy mess of exposition as we are re-introduced to precocious Hermione (precocious Emma Watson), best buddy Ron (the perpetually awkward Rupert Grint) and of course the boy-wizard himself (Daniel Radcliffe). Of course, "boy-wizard" is something of a misnomer since Harry seems moments away from shaving. But still, Mr. Radcliff and his pals are the film's solid core and they grow more and more comfortable in their roles (and their own skin) as the series progresses (though Hermione isn't given nearly enough to do this time around).
Some peripheral characters also come into their own in "Goblet", particularly the beleaguered Neville Longbottom - thanks to a poignant performance by Matthew Lewis. The insanely pedigreed cast of adults also reprise their roles, including Maggie Smith (who definitely gets the joke) and the woefully underutilized Alan Rickman (who bites into all five of his lines). Michael Gambon also returns as Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, a role initiated by the late Richard Harris. After a slightly timid take on the role in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
, Mr. Gambon now makes Dumbledore his own, taking the character in a more powerful direction. While Mr. Harris is still missed, this is a Dumbledore we can respect again.
There are some notable additions to the adult cast, including a perfectly gruff Brendan Gleeson as "MadEye" Moody and a perfectly annoying Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter. But by far the standout performance comes from none other than Ralph Fiennes as the evil one himself, Lord Voldemort. Never has a villain been given such a build up. Mr. Fiennes entrance comes after four films of set up and, the good news is, he does not disappoint. In fact, he only makes you want more - not bad for a character who's pure evil.
The film builds up to an inevitable showdown which has been four films in the making. And, without giving too much away to those non-readers out there, the scene is well worth it. Thanks to Mr. Newell's solid grounding, the film's climax carries more weight than any in the previous three. The stakes are high and there is genuine danger and real emotion at work. There is dark pall over the film's denouement, which is exactly right for the ending and sets up enormous expectations for the fifth film which, if this series continues its trajectory, is bound to be magical.