• OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
My luck just keeps coming these days. Today I was fortunate to come across the Widescreen Edition of the Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone DVD a whole 2 days before its release!

Let me start off by saying that this DVD package was (quite ingeniusly) geared towards kids. To get to the special features is a trip, but well worth the effort. Adults may find it tiresome, but the Potter-philes will love it.

I admit it. I'm not a Harry Potter fan, book wise. I've read the first installment, and to be honest, it did nothing for me. That said, I'm also a firm believer in the idea that anything that gets kids to read is a good thing, so with that in mind, I'm a huge Potter fan. Needless to say, I went into this film with low expectations, and I came out smiling.

This is one of those rare films that comes along, I think, every 17 1/2 years. It's a true family film in every sense of the word. Kids love it for the excitement and the ability to relate to the characters, as well as the joy of seeing some characters they've gotten quite close to in the literature realm come to life. And the adults can enjoy it because they know they're not going to have to deal with objectionable language or excessive violence. Plus they don't have the cutesy garbage rammed down there throat for 2 hours ad-nauseu. Most of all, it's a well told, fun story. It's got something for everyone.

This film looks good on DVD. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio is a perfect fit, and the sound ain't bad, either. The 5.2 Dolby Digital comes through nicely in places such as Harry trying to catch the flying key. Thr buzzing, clinking, and clanking all surround you, yet all are crystal clear.

The real joy of this film would have to be the performances. Newcomers Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) are a joy to see together. All of these young actors nail their respective roles, with radcliffe flashing one of the most infectious smiles seen on screen in a long time. Grint gets the best lines in the film as Ron, and his timing is right on. I'm not a big fan of director Chris Columbus, but I'll give him this, he knows how to direct kids. Whatever they're doing, you can tell they're having fun. but the one performance that shines above all others is that of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. As any Potter fan would tell you, they can picture nobody else embodying the role of the gentle giant. Of course Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, and Maggie Smith all turn in solid performances, but then again, they always do.

The effects in this film are not spectacular, but they suffice at bringing the world of wizards, witches, and giant 3 headed dogs to life. They walk the line between scary and cartoony, which is good for the younger viewers. They can watch without getting too scared because it's obvious these things aren't real.
THE EXTRAS
Here the 2-disc set pulls away from the pack, as far as DVDs aimed at kids go. Normally DVDs for kids are short on extras, but not this one. Parents take note, it can be frustrating trying to navigate your way through the features. Many are little puzzles, or just snippets of information on certain characters. It's normal practice around these parts to break the features down and rate each one, but I'm not going to do that here. No, that could ruin it, and this is a treat that should not be spoiled. I'll just drop some hints, some tidbits, and let you all enjoy the rest on Tuesday!

Find the book with the production art. This is some cool looking stuff, and you see the care that went into making sure this movie is what children across the world have been envisioning in thier minds since the books were first released. (but beware one of the books, it'll catch you off guard!)

Take the tour of Hagrid's hut. It's a 360-degree self guided tour, and it's really quite cool. You can do the same for Hogwart's school. These are a nice little feature that allows you (I mean, you're kids...) to feel like you're right inside the school walking around. And it's simple, you just use your remote.

There are new interviews with director Chris Columbus and David Heyman. How they found time to actually sit down and talk between filming of the next 2 Potter films is beyond me, but they're both interesting to listen to, and my respect for Columbus has gone up a bit.

Ok, the last thing I'm telling you is this: (parents, listen up) There's an in-depth look at how to play "Quidditch" - the fast paced game featured throughout the Potter series. It's a nice way to catch up with what you're kids have known for years, and almost sound like you know what you're talking about.

Other than that, you're on your own. Explore the 2nd disc, try to solve the puzzles, and you may make it past Fluffy... Just remember to give your kids a turn!
THE FINAL WORD
I enjoyed the heck out of this 2-disc set. The movie is great family fun, and it leaves you wanting more. (which you'll be getting) If you're new to the world of Harry Potter, don't worry, you're brought right up to speed on the difference between a Muggle and a mud-blood. etc. The terminology doesn't way this movie down at all. In fact, you may be able to carry on an intelligent conversation with a 6 year old and not come out feeling like you're the dumb one!

Keep your patients with teh kid-friendly, but adult frustrating menus on the 2nd disc. Remember, this wasn't designed for you.

Most of all, sit down with the family and enjoy the time you'll spend together watching this flick. You'll all be smiling by the time the credits come up, I promise.

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