Reel To Reel:How It Rates: ***
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Red Flags: Scary Sequences and Fantasy Violence
Seeing a new Harry Potter movie is like going to a high-school class reunion every couple of years. You know these people, you love these people, and you see how their lives are changing -- both for the better and worse. Unfortunately for Harry, it's always for the worse. Fortunately for his best girl friend Hermoine (Watson), it's always for the better, as she's picking up teenage beauty to go along with all those smarts. A few snarky Muggles (non-magic folk) might argue you can change anything with a wand, including acne.
For the fourth installment of the series, director Mike Newell picks up the baton from Alfonso Cuaron and continues into deeper, darker territory while still preserving the magic touches Potter fans demand and expect.
The film opens with what could be the wizarding world's equivalent of 9/11 -- the Quiddich World Cup is firebombed by Death Eaters, followers of the evil Lord Voldemort (don't say his name), right before Harry's eyes. But life goes on, and Harry goes back to school at Hogwarts with yet another new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, "Mad Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson), a nutty exterminator of evil. Harry's dreams reveal something's about to go down involving him and you-know-who, but he can't put the pieces together.
The film contains no Quiddich matches -- even with the World Cup scenes -- but it does host the Triwizard tournament, which I guess you could call Merlinian Gladiators. (Can you imagine Larry Czonka doing color commentary on a battle with a dragon?). Students from two other wizarding schools are being hosted at Hogwarts: the girls of France's Beauxbatons and the boys of Bugaria's Durmstrang. The latter is home to Viktor Krum, a star Quiddich player and chick magnet. Only one wizard from each school is chosen to compete by a magical cup which holds names of those desiring to enter. But for some mystical reason, the cup chooses two from Hogwards: Cedric Diggory, the captain of the Quidditch team, and Harry.
We've got a problem. Not only is the competition too dangerous for underage wizards, somebody else put Harry's name in the cup. But who? However, the rules are absolute. Cedric, Harry, a girl from Beauxbatons and Krum are the challengers. One of them will emerge as champion -- if they survive.
Harry and his pals are growing up. The teenage angst of the last picture is remixed into the frustrations and angst of getting a date as Potter and his best friend Ron look to ask somebody to the school dance. But who? Hermione, she's got Krum. It always seems easier for the girls, doesn't it? Not quite, as you will see.
The latest Potter film stays true to the notion that it's the reality, not the fantasy, that draws people into this continuing story. The Harry Potter saga is really a coming-of-age story spread out over seven (or maybe more) books that just so happen to have magical appeal. The film adaptation of Goblet Of Fire has been distilled down as much as possible without breaking it, but like every other picture in the series, it never matches up to the book in depth, although Prisoner of Azkaban came the closest with its emotional legs. A plan to break this book into two pictures was thankfully scotched, as the filmmakers have been able to slowly drift away from a slavish loyality to the text. The film is still long, at two hours plus, but it's as good as you're going to get.