With the inane promise of making the “darkest” Harry Potter movie yet, Mike Newell (producer on The Constant Gardener) takes on directing duties to issue forth a gruelingly sluggish film in the latest installment of the vastly overrated movie franchise based on J.K. Rowling’s eggheaded children’s books. On the heels of puberty, the bushy browed Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron and Hermione return from their summer vacation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The promise of a “Triwizard Tournament” consumes half of the film’s overlong two-and-a-half hour running time before giving way to the promise of a cheesy dance ball where teen jealousy trickles down dress gowns like undiluted Kool Aid. Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire ticks along like a watch with a dying battery. If “darker” means that the movie makes you close your eyes for extended periods, then this Harry Potter episode seems very dim indeed.
Harry Potter is not an interesting character. He’s not especially smart, ambitious or diligent. For all of the “magic” that Potter should be flicking from his wand, he doesn’t hold a candle to the late Bill Bixby’s character on the 1970’s TV show The Magician. Harry’s navel gazing burden, which he bears because of his parents’ death, is his most defined character trait.
As such, Harry is a boring protagonist. The audience never has much invested in what Harry will do next, because he’s too busy moping around waiting for something to be done to him. Harry’s valued friends Ron and, the insipidly named, Hermione are too gossip-driven to be as interesting as, say, the kids on Johnny Depp’s 21 Jumpstreet.
Neither Ron nor Hermione seem especially good at anything other than talking about Harry’s delicate existence. You could watch all four Harry Potter movies back-to-back and still not feel like you know much about the three main characters because there isn’t much personality to discover. The problem is in the writing.
Early on, Harry has a nightmare about Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the cruel villain responsible for murdering his parents, before the story shifts to the Quidditch World Cup where Harry and his friends witness an attack on the wizards’ tent city by Voldemort’s gang of Death Eaters. Dressed in dunce hats, the Death Eaters leave behind Lord Voldemort’s “Dark Mark” insignia of a gigantic skull and snake on the night sky with an underlying message of white supremacy.
Upon their return to Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) inaugurates the arrival of a group of French female students of Beauxbatons and a group of German boys from Durmstrang who will vie to participate in the Triwizard Tournament. In spite of rules that mandate a 17 years-old minimum age for the competition, Harry’s name is mysteriously entered into the “goblet of fire” from which participants are chosen. Much to Ron’s chagrin, the 14-year-old Harry is allowed to participate in the Tournament and their friendship suffers a brief falling out that’s resolved far too soon for much drama to foment.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an endurance test for its audience. Every plot point is a technical exercise calibrated to add another digit to box office profit without staining your memory or emotions. There’s no humor, no sincerity and no soul to any of the characters. Harry Potter, as a concept, has passed through too many marketing meetings on how his young adult visage should be presented. The result is a vision of youthful impotence. Harry Potter is a fake.
Harry Potter screens at 5:30 p.m. on Sat., March 25 as part of the Drive In at Maui Community College. $20 per car. MTW