Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire

on November 18, 2005 by Christine James
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It can be discombobulating going back and forth between J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" books and their fantastical filmic adaptations. At the 30-minute mark of the fourth movie, "Goblet of Fire," those still caught up in the sixth book might wonder impatiently why Harry has yet to find a single horcrux. Of course, viewers of the films who are not familiar with the source material have their own confusions to contend with: For the sake of a running time that doesn't break clocks, certain explanations are cut to a bare minimum. "So there are portkeys, I guess," was the vague conclusion of one audience member when an old boot in a field is declared to be one without further details. Though one gets the gist via context, there's a bit of a "wha?" factor that's inevitable when cutting a 734-page book down to non-"Gandhi" movie length.

Regardless of all that, Mike Newell does an exceptional job translating the fourth book to the screen, showing a remarkable flair for cutting-edge visuals that one might not expect from the director of "Four Weddings and Funeral," "Pushing Tin" and "Mona Lisa Smile." An early scene at the epic stadium hosting the 422nd Quidditch World Cup match immediately conjures blood-pumpingly spectacular magic of both the supernatural and Hollywood varieties. But an all-too- quick cutaway back to the fans' camps finds the revelry short-lived as a band of Death Eaters -- skull-masked supporters of the evil Lord Voldemort -- storm through and lay waste to everything in sight. There are dire implications that we can only assume our protagonists are pondering as they're rushed aboard the Hogwarts Express.

Back at Hogwarts, the chop-chop pace (and chop-chop editing) continues, with headmaster Dumbledore announcing that representatives from two rival schools -- the mesmerizing mademoiselles of Beauxbatons and the brawny brutes of Durmstrang -- will be competing with Hogwarts in the legendary but potentially lethal TriWizard competition. The visitors' entrance is another dazzlingly memorable scene that sets the tone for what Hogwarts is up against. Harry has zero interest in the attention and peril such a competition brings, but someone secretly enters him in the contest and he has no choice but to participate -- even though it's widely suspected that dark forces are at play.

Amidst all of this, Newell is determined to show that the students are, at heart, regular teenagers, with petty jealousies, vulnerabilities, conflicted instincts and all- around souped-up emotions. This is mostly effective, though a rock group at a Hogwarts ball feels a little false. (The background sobbing girl being comforted by friends, however, is all too authentic; has there ever been a dance without her?)

The action and stakes are upped in "Goblet of Fire," warranting its PG-13 rating but doing justice to the book and the very nature of the Ultimate Good vs. Ultimate Evil challenge Harry must rise to meet. While Newell's own challenge might not involve a wand duel with Lord Voldemort and the fate of his immortal soul, filming a "Harry Potter" must be almost as harrowing; he deserves his own TriWizard Cup for pulling it off. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Brendan Gleeson, Robert Pattinson and Ralph Fiennes. Directed by Mike Newell. Written by Steve Kloves. Produced by David Heyman. A Warner Bros. release. Fantasy/Adventure. Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images. Running time: 156 min

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