Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, John Cleese
screenplay by Steven Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
directed by Chris Columbus
by Walter Chaw There is such a dedicated lack of controversy and tension in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that all of its benefit as a children's fiction is lost to the machinery of Hollywood spectacle. Gone is the dread uncertainty, the persecution of a child because of parents or class, and any true appreciation of consequences in the various action scenarios that lockstep unfold to the strict dictates of the plot; it's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory without the candy. At a bloated 152 minutes, the film depends to a peculiar degree on our familiarity with J.K. Rowling's outrageously popular series of books: it does little to establish the characters and has such a feeling of clockwork inevitability that it's shocking when the finale comes and goes with almost nothing resembling purpose, much less resolution. Though it's arguably faithful to the major movements of the book (thus satisfying a large population of its tyke fans until they begin to develop discretion), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone suffers from what I like to call the "Wizard of Oz" malady: no brain, no heart, no courage.