Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by:Steven Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman
Released: November 28, 2002
Grade: A

With less hype than a year ago, Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets lives up to expectations by being vastly superior to the original.  All the missing elements have this time been included and the end result is a fitting tribute to the works of J.K. Rowling.

On the verge of starting his second year at school, Harry is warned by a house-elf named Dobby that “Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts this year”.  There is danger afoot but it’s not going to stop Harry - especially considering how bad his home life has become with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.

Soon after his arrival at Hogwarts, Harry discovers the truth in Dobby’s warnings.  Some of his classmates are found frozen stiff (victim to a spell of petrifaction) and there’s talk that all students will have to be sent home.  Such mayhem is the delight of Lucius Malfoy, a powerful wizard who is rumoured to have links to the Dark Arts.  He can use the attacks as justification to overthrow principal Albus Dumbledore (Harris) and have the school run his way.

Naturally, it’s fallen upon Harry Potter to save the day.  A message written in blood on a corridor wall warns that the Chamber Of Secrets has been opened and the Heir Of Slytheren has arrived.  So what is this Chamber of Secrets?  Who is the Heir of Slytheren?  What is it that Harry can do?

The film’s length needs to be addressed.  For a family film, 161 minutes would be considered an arduous test but with the multitude of characters and lengthy plot, there’s few dull moments.  Judging by the excited reactions from the sold out crowd in my opening night screening, most the audience agreed.  There’s plenty of material to go the distance.

The humour lacking in the first novel has been rediscovered in this adaptation.  Despite not being the first casting choice (Hugh Grant was), Kenneth Branagh is hilarious as the superficial teacher Gilderoy Lockhart.  Seeing the late Richard Harris his final role also brings to the film added sentiment - Harris’s larger role in the sequel is appreciated and he will be sorely missed in future instalments.

Our younger cast members have seen their voices break but talent-wise, they have developed over the past twelve months.  As Harry, Daniel Radcliffe delivers his lines with more confidence - like a new superhero.  Rupert Grint (as Ron) has been given more flexibility and adds much humour with his misadventures and facial expressions.

In the back of your mind, you know the film is flooded with visual effects but it’s impossible to identify the line between truth and fiction.  Director Chris Columbus has returned and once again added much to the project - he has a great knack with kids.  That’ll be it though for Columbus as a new director, Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien), has been asked to direct the third film to keep the series fresh.  Expect Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban to be released in mid 2004.

Already guaranteed to be a classic, the Chamber Of Secrets has something for everyone.  A dazzling fantasy world that hopefully will appreciated more so, in years to come.