Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Another lengthy but entertaining entry in the ongoing Harry Potter saga, Goblet of Fire succeeds mainly thanks to J.K. Rowling's ever-engrossing storyline. Director Newell, the first actual Englishman to direct a Potter film, doesn't have much of a background in visual effects, but he seems very comfortable with them here. In fact, Goblet of Fire far outdoes its predecessors in the CGI department. More! Better! Subtler! is the name of the effects game here.

The story concerns Master Potter, now 14 and in his fourth year of studies at Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as he unexpectedly hears his name selected by the titular goblet, which enrolls him in the magic world's deadly Tri-Wizard tournament. The youngest student ever to participate, Harry navigates through the three treacherous games in the tournament even as he and his friends navigate through the treachery of puberty. Teenage crushes, jealous rages (it's never believably explained why Harry's dear friend Ron suddenly won't speak to him for a good chunk of the film), and awkward hormones raging even while the evil Lord Voldemort hatches yet another plan to destroy poor Harry.

The cast is fine as usual, and this installment's "guest stars" - Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, and especially Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody - are welcome additions. As for Newell, his work isn't quite the revelation that Alfonso Cuarón's was in The Prisoner of Azkaban, but then Cuarón raised the bar sky-high. However, Newell does deserve credit for adding some clever little details that give this film its personality - no mean feat, considering the wall-to-wall plot of Rowling's storyline. The director has stated that his own special contributions to the Potter film series come from his own English public school background, and he throws in several amusing moments that reflect the unique character of British schoolboy life. He also deserves a pat on the back for hiring his frequent collaborator, British composer Patrick Doyle, who provides a powerful score - better even than regular Potter composer John Williams's work. (However, five demerits for Mr. Newell if it was his idea to give Harry and Ron those ugly long haircuts.)

Some purists will bemoan all the story trimmed from the book - apparently the longest in the series - but Goblet of Fire still good, exciting fun, with unexpected pathos in the third act.