Harry Potter has learned to live with his bullying Uncle Vernon, his callous Aunt Petunia and the constant whining of his greedy, spoiled cousin Dudley. He's even learned to live with sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs. Harry's relatives have just as reluctantly learned to live with the unwelcome presence of their orphaned relation, a constant reminder of Petunia's "wayward" sister and brother-in-law and their mysterious and untimely demise. Even the impending arrival of his 11th birthday offers no excitement for Harry- as usual, there's little chance of cards, presents or any kind of birthday treat. This year, however, is different. On his 11th birthday, Harry learns that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own. Invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. At Hogwarts, he finds the home and family he has never had.
This film adaptation of the J. K. Rowling novel opens with a familiar sight to Harry Potter fans: the dry-witted giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) dropping a baby at the Doorstep of Destiny. Years later Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) winds up in Hogwarts, an English boarding school for wizards. While shopping for his magic equipment, Harry comes across the Sorcerer's Stone, a bedeviled jewel whose power affects his first year at the enchanted school. The most highly awaited movie of the year has a dreary, literal-minded competence, following the letter of the law as laid down by the book's author. The film comes across as a covers act by an extremely competent tribute band — not the real thing but an incredible simulation — and there's an audience for this sort of thing. But watching "Harry Potter" is like seeing "Beatlemania" staged in the Hollywood Bowl, where the cheers and screams will drown out whatever's unfolding onstage. – Elvis Mitchell
2001-11-16 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone