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Dumbledore pulls a long booger
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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Review written by: Alex Sandell

I imagined a better Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while reading the book than the one Mike Newell directed a few years later.  Like the disappointing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone adaptation, Goblet of Fire feels like a cliff-notes version of the book.  Steven Kloves adapted both films, but seeing as how he was also behind the adaptation of the entertaining Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I suspect the mediocrity that is Goblet of Fire is almost all Mike Newell's handiwork. 

Mike Newell had some of the most intense scenes in any Harry Potter novel to bring to life for audiences across the world.  In the book, the opening scene and the scene in the cemetery were dark, suspenseful, and a definite turning point for the series.  Newell turns the spine-tingling and well-crafted world J.K. Rowling created for the novel into a lump of flat banality.  Limited emotion, no tension, just a director out of his element and transferring what's on paper to the screen without breathing any new life into the material -- sort of like Chris Columbus did with the first two in the series, but worse.

Prior to Potter, Newell was known for directing mediocre comedies (An Awfully Big Adventure, Pushing Tin, Mona Lisa Smile) and one really big, sappy but overall rewarding bittersweet romantic comedy, Four Weddings and a Funeral.  The only real directing work he did with anything remotely in the Potter genre was a hideous Young Indiana Jones movie.  I guess the Young Indy, combined with Four Weddings and a Funeral, got him the gig.

The only time Newell really seems to be in his element is during the Hogwarts' Yule Ball dance.  This is the lone scene in the movie that genuinely feels inspired.  This is the one scene that breathes some of the magic of the book into the theater and reminds us Muggles of why we loved the novel so much in the first place.  The rest of the film, as Ron Weasley would say, can piss off. 

While the three main actors -- Rupert Grint as Ron, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger -- do better than ever in the film, the screenplay isn't much of a showcase for their growing talents.  In the book the 3 had one big adventure together:  puberty.  The kids were changing, discovering girls (or, in Hermione's case, boys), and going through all of the ups and downs of adolescence.  The movie only touches on this during the scenes surrounding the Yule Ball dance.  The rest of the film belongs to Harry Potter. 

It's unfortunate, because nothing is correctly set up for the next movie (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).  It's never established that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has turned into a father figure for Harry.  This is such a crucial piece of character development for the next installment; it's unforgivable that all we see -- or hear -- of Mr. Black is his Computer Generated face briefly chatting with Harry from inside a fireplace.  Instead of developing its characters, or crucial plot points that are needed to make Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the emotional powerhouse of a film that it should be when it's released in 2007, Newell seems intent -- maybe obsessed -- with showing Alastor "MadEye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson) giving suspicious looks to the camera. 

The most criminal act of this adaptation is the treatment of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).  He's not the Dumbledore from the previous 3 films or the last 6 books.  Why is he shaking Harry around in such an abusive manner?  What's he constantly hollering about?  Dumbledore has always been gentle, understanding and patient.  For whatever reason the filmmakers decided to turn him into a cranky old git in Goblet of Fire.  Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) would be a kinder headmaster. 

Speaking of Snape, there are a few moments of goodness sprinkled throughout the film and he is one of them.  His moment in the Great Hall, scolding Ron and Harry for talking is hilarious.  The outfit Ron's mother sends him to wear during the Yule Ball dance is bloody brilliant.  Hermione looks gorgeous, with her hair done up at the Ball.  Ron's jealousy over Hermione (whom he finally notices is hot) going to the dance with Victor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) was funny and touching, all at the same time.

Other than the kid's performances, Snape's moments, and the Yule Ball dance, the film doesn't have much going for it.  The effects are okay, but the movie gets nearly as CG heavy as a Star Wars' prequel.  Maybe if I never read the book, I would have been able to see past the film's many flaws and could have enjoyed it more than I did.  Fans of the novel are likely to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the film with the most lost potential of any in the series, thus far. 

Why didn't we spend enough time with Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) to form an emotional bond with the character?  How could any director of any merit take the games of the Triwizard tournament (sort of like The Olympics, only with dragons and mermaids) and make them bland?  In the book Harry stressed over each of the three events and spent a lengthy amount of time between each one in a state of panic, trying to figure out how he could possibly survive. 

The film is a series of shortcuts.  Nearly everyone outside of the primary three characters were briefly inserted for comic relief, their stories all but forgotten -- Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) has more screen time than Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton)!  Why wasn't more time put into developing these characters?  Why wasn't any time put into forming a solid mystery?  Showing Madeye Moody looking cagey in the background is the Scooby-Doo 101 form of directing.  It doesn't make for a compelling whodunit.  And what sort of movie has its main character discover a murder victim and then never mention it again?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a one-note and relatively unimaginative movie.  I expected a film featuring the Triwizard Tournament to have the audience up and cheering.  Instead it feels lifeless.  The heroic moments feel forced.  The movie feels undercooked.  Mike Newell was definitely the wrong man for the job.  Back to the drawing board, guys -- you've got one hell of a lot of work on your hands if you want to pull off the even more complex and personal Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Agree, disagree, do you wish you had a better education?  Email Alex!

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