`Potter' is improving with age

New on DVD

Movies: on screen, DVD/Video

April 10, 2003|By Bob Longino | Bob Longino,COX NEWS SERVICE

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets could be worse. It could be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Actually, there's a lot that's solid about the second Potter movie, which, as only parental fools don't know, comes out tomorrow on DVD and video. The special effects are much improved from the first film (the Quidditch game looks and feels like a bona-fide match; the scary spiders are really pretty scary), the acting is better (especially sidekick Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley) and Secrets really moves, whereas the first flick just sort of started, sputtered and sank like a stone.

Still, despite earning nearly $2 billion at the box office, the movie series has yet to attain the lyrical charm and expressive nature of the books. In words, Harry and gang are downright great; on film, just so-so.

None of that matters to the wee ones. The two-disc DVD will be coveted. It includes 19 extensions of scenes from the movie and discards that young Potterites will eat up like magical slugs. There are plenty of games, including a test of spell knowledge, plot questions and a fairly nifty you-steer-the-flying-car game that soars through the deep, dark forest.

Kids also might appreciate questions posed to the young actors, even when the query amounts to nothing more than "Is making the movie fun?" (Daniel Radcliffe's answer: "I am so lucky. How many kids would be paying to do this?" and "It's so much better than school.")

There's an interesting conversation with Potter novelist J.K. Rowling and scriptwriter Steven Kloves about the structuring of the movies. But many of the DVD extras are a missed opportunity. There is no commentary track, in which director Chris Columbus and the producers could have explained to young viewers the process of making films. Nothing to show how the Quidditch match was made to look so real.

One can only suppose that they aren't there because anything marked Harry Potter sells, no matter what.

DVD: $29.95, VHS: $24.95

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