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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 16:41 GMT
Magical Potter casts his spell
Harry Potter
Hogwarts becomes Harry's new home
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Given the phenomenal global success of the Harry Potter books, it was inevitable that the first movie adaptation would be hugely anticipated.

Yet behind the excitement, there would always be a nagging doubt that a big screen version could never quite live up to the magic on the page.

Harry Potter devotees need not have worried. Down to the smallest of detail, the film's makers Warners have held true to the story in JK Rowling's first book.

Harry Potter
Daniel Radcliffe plays a perfect Harry Potter
And, in its rich mood of fantasy, mystery and fun the movie pays tribute to the creativity that has made Rowling one of the world's best-read authors - by children and adults alike.

As Harry Potter fans will know, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - the first of Rowling's four books - follows the adventures of Harry Potter as he embarks on his career as a wizard.

Harry has grown-up with - and learnt to accept - his bullying uncle Vernon, callous Aunt Petunia and greedy, whining cousin Dudley.

He is a treated like a slave and outcast by his adoptive family. He is even made to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs.

But Harry's downtrodden existence is abruptly brought to an end with the arrival of his 11th birthday.

Harry Potter
Harry's aunt and uncle try to make his life a misery
With it comes the revelation that Harry is no ordinary boy but the orphan of two powerful wizards. What's more, as wizards go, Harry possesses unique magical powers.

Invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry begins the adventure of a lifetime.

Wonder

Thrown into a world of wonder, he begins to learn the full extent of his magical powers, from spell-casting to flying on a broom.

He also strikes up a firm and loyal friendship with fellow new recruits Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

And it is not long before the trio realise that all is not quite as ordered at Hogwarts as their teachers would have them believe.

If Harry, played by Daniel Radcliffe, spends most of the film with his eyes wide open and gasping "Wow" it is no surprise.

From the outset, the film's mood of out-of-this-world mystery is set.

Mist fills the air and owls swoop across the smokey screen even before we have been whisked off to Hogwarts.

There, aided by the very best of eye-popping special effects, staircases move, candles float and paintings come to life.

Charm

The movie revolves around a number of memorable set pieces. A fast and furious mid-air Quidditch match will have you on the edge of your seats.

Harry Potter
Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid is one of an all-star adult cast

But it is the "to-the-death" live-action chess match that carries the ultimate nail-biting thrills.

Yet, if the effects are impressive, they are equally matched by the performances of the - mainly British - cast.

Daniel Radcliffe takes on the formidable task of Harry Potter with calm, steady charm while, of his two chums, Rupert Grint as the amiable Ron Weasley gets the best comedy expressions and lines.

And when it comes to raising a smile among the adults, Robbie Coltrane is a towering tour de force as Hagrid - Hogwarts's lovable giant.

Despite Hogwarts's gothic setting, the movie's language is largely contemporary, helping - if further help were necessary - to draw the viewers in.

If anything about this movie is likely to raise a complaint among Potter fans, it is that it does not quite meet the scary suspense of the book.

But, if even at the end of a bladder-breaking two and a half hours, a movie can - as this one does - leave both children and adults exhilarated, the suspicion must be that here is classic cinema in the making.


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