|Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane
Director: Chris Columbus
It's Harry and gang's second year at Hogwart's School of Magic and something isn't right in the air. Much darker and longer than its forerunner (last year's "The Sorcerer's Stone"), "The Chamber of Secrets" is a more mature "Harry" film.
This story begins just before the new school year, when Harry is introduced to a very believable CGI house elf named Dobby, whose ability to annoy and irritate audiences matches that of the horrid Jar Jar from the new "Star Wars" films. Dobby warns Harry not to go back to Hogwart's because trouble awaits, and plenty of it.
Of course, the story demands that Harry returns, and he soon finds himself entangled in a horrible mystery involving murder within the school's halls. The other players are all back for this latest installment, including Harry's two best friends, Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), and we're also introduced to some new faces, most notably the incredibly arrogant Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), the father of Harry's nemesis Draco (Tom Felton).
While the CGI effects are nearly flawless and the story represents an intriguing addition to the ongoing epic, I found "The Chamber of Secrets" a bit too long for my taste, especially as a children's movie. Even more troubling, though, is that our hero, Harry, isn't particularly likeable or engaging, and I found myself more interested in the other characters all too often.
While the first "Harry Potter" film was and, quite possibly, will be the best of the series, "The Chamber of Secrets" is still an enjoyable sequel. But with the switch from Chris Columbus to a new director for the third film, there will be plenty of change on the way, and as long as there are new "Harry" films to see, the box-office receipts will keep piling up.