Magical Mystery Tour de Force

The magic eclipses the marketing of the big-screen Harry Potter.

To his credit, Columbus remains faithful to Rowling's worldview and game plan rather than attempting -- as many directors would -- to bend them to his own purposes. To some extent, Harry Potter is streamlined for widest appeal -- note the presence of TBEs (Token Black Extras) -- but the director manages to keep his show from becoming just another sterile amusement-park attraction or clamorous Hook. Columbus seems to be drawing upon the adventure of The Goonies (which he penned) while adding to the legacy of vital fantasies such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Time Bandits and even The Little Vampire , all of which wisely stirred some malice into their magic.

As but one example of Harry Potter's narrative functionalism, Harry stands transfixed before a bewitched mirror, and Dumbledore appears, eager to explain its power. It shows us nothing more than the deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts, explains the old wizard, who could be talking about any and all media. This mirror gives us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away in front of it.

The beauty of this project, ultimately, is that it reminds us how crucial it is, in all aspects of life, to get up and wonder.

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