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HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN , USA , 2004 , MPAA Rating : PG for frightening moments, creature violence and mild language

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) spends a lot of time being knocked cold in the  third installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. It’s hardly surprising, between mishaps at Quiddich matches, the Dementors, particularly nasty creatures that I’ll get to later, and the amount of story to get though, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.  Fans of the series will not be surprised to learn that trying to cram the book’s 400+ pages into even 2 ½ hours of screen time will, of necessity, mean skimping on the story’s rich panoply. It’s not just the length of the book, but also Rowling’s ability to pack a surprising amount of detail onto virtually every page. The film version makes up for that loss with suitably imaginative visuals and a knack for hitting the high points of the plot without missing a beat. Sure, it would have been nice to spend more time in Hogsmeade, the magical local village where the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry go on weekends, or to enjoy just a little more of Professor Snape’s (a pallid and greasy Alan Rickman) particularly cold-blooded version of tutorial torture, but finally seeing what a hippogriff (a cross between a gryphon and a horse) looks like in flight, or what happens when a giant spider sports roller skates on the end of each leg, is a salve for any shortchanging in the deal. Kudos to returning screenwriter Steven Kloves for some smart decisions.

It is Harry’s third year at Hogwarts and over the summer he’s grown both physically and sullenly. The former is out of his control, and he can hardly be blamed for the latter, what with his foster family treating him
as shabbily as Cinderella’s wicked step-family did her. The film begins with our hero meting out some satisfying rough justice to them that renders one member of the family into a human blimp that floats with a ridiculous grace over London. Instead of being expelled for practicing witchcraft outside of school grounds, though, he’s welcomed back with open arms and a spell to make the muggles, as the non-magical people are called, forget all the wizarding. There are bigger problems to be dealt with in the person of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), the man who betrayed Harry’s parents to the villain of the series, Lord Voldemort. Black's escaped from Azkaban Prison and the authorities think he’s out to finish the job by finishing Harry.

His lordship doesn’t make an appearance in this installment, but there’s treachery aplenty as friends and foes gets all mixed up, Harry’s best pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) may or may not have felt a spark of a different sort of magic than the one taught at Hogwarts, and the school welcomes yet another in a series of professors to teach the defense against the dark arts class, Remus Lupin (David Thewliss).

The pacing makes the running time fly by and helps overcome the problem of all the subplots that needed to be dropped in order to have a manageable running time. New director
Alfonso Cuaron, replacing Chris Columbus’ sugary style, takes things in the suitably dark direction that the books do at this point, even little things like the photo in the wanted poster for Black that’s plastered everywhere. Like all magical photographs, it’s animated like a 10-second film clip. This one shows Oldman’s Black snapping at passersby like the worst psychopath of your worst nightmare. The camera angles are edgier with art direction that even in verdant forests has a dark cast to it, the perfect frame for the Dementors, who are the defining image of this installment. Those would be the guards at Azkaban who are now tracking down Black at Hogwarts. These spectral, skeletal things clad in ragged capes that float unnaturally, seem not to be in the same plane of reality as everyone else. Silent and relentless, their presence is announced with a creeping frost. Their weapon is to suck happiness from their victims, or anyone who gets in their way, or souls from the condemned with a mouth that looks like a lamprey’s. It’s enough to disrupt the sleep of adults, much less kids. Compared to them, the werewolf is adorable, and believe me, he’s not adorable in and of himself.

Harry and Hermione are still sympathetic, but are no longer cute in that kid way. Grint’s Ron, on the other hand, still manages to steal scenes with a fine sense of being ferociously overwhelmed at every turn as the least able member of the crew, both physically and magically.
 Hermione, the brains of the bunch, has become even more serious, almost grim, but distinctly empowered. Watson herself has slimmed down to the standard of Hollywood sveltness and has become oddly self-conscious in her performance. Radcliffe has matured appealingly, taking on a more solid body shape and the proper dose of moodiness that comes with being a teenager, whether muggle or wizard.  He summons up the hot-blooded, all-encompassing anger that doesn’t know when, if, or how to explode, yet he can still weep convincingly when the moment calls for it.

Most of Rowling’s large cast of supporting characters make the cinematic cut, but some fare better than others.
There’s plenty of Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), the giant who watches over Harry and an assortment of magical creatures, but Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, has barely more than a cameo. John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick is AWOL, replaced by marauding knights on horseback that are studiously ignored by everyone. As for Michael Gambon, who has the potentially thankless task of taking over for the late Richard Harris as Headmaster Dumbledore, he makes the transition as seamless as these things can be, adding a bit of gravitas to the part without sacrificing a fine, though distinctly understated, sense of humor.

As for the new characters, Thewliss is suave and piquantly embodied as someone who just stepped out of the 1940s, from his tweed suit and clipped mustache, to the choice of music that he uses for his student’s to conjure by. Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney, the air-headed professor divination, is fragile and eccentric beneath hugely frizzled hair and enormous, thick-lensed glasses, becoming deliciously discombobulated upon finding a grim in Harry’s tea leaves, a grim being a dog shape and the worst thing you can find is said leaves. It can only be hoped that Julie Christie as the mistress of Hogmeade’s pub is properly earthy for a PG
-13 film, has more in the next film than just the handful of lines allotted to her here.

As good as HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN is, and it is a fabulously wild ride, it foreshadows something as disturbing as Voldemort's threat that hangs over Harry's lightning-bolt scarred head. Each book in the series becomes
appreciably longer, making an adaptation into a feature-length film more and more problematical. The ending of PRISONER is glaringly abrupt, something that the cheesy freeze-frame emphasizes all too clearly. Will the powers that be continue trying to make one film per book, or do the smart thing, film the books more closely and release the results in multiple parts?  It would make even more money for the franchise and, what's even better, make for films that do right by the legions of Harry Potter fans. Everyone wins, and how often does that happen?

  My rating:

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Moviegoer Review
therealseverussnape (
Anyone who cares about staying true to the book would want to puke seeing this movie. It really is that horrible
Arunita Roy (arunita
I hated this movie.It was not at all like the book and it made Harry Potter look like a total whiner and an immature geek.
Casey (
I agree that its not much like the book but I loved it. I hope the other movie are just as good. But still like the book
KuhnA (
It was good but could definitely keep more to the story, I would much ratehr see a 6 hour film then one 2.5 hour film that leaves me asking a bunch of important need-to-know questions.
Aimzy (
This movie was ok for those who had never read the books. For those who have read these books this movie was definitely disappointing but good non the less. I wish the movie had at very least kept the length of the Shrieking Shack scene. I also would have to agree with many other movie reviewers that the movies need to be more focused on the story and be released in parts. I would much rather watch a 6 hour acurate film then a confusing 2 and 1/2 hour film. I'm hoping and looking forward to movie 4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ...
Holly (
I realy enjoyed this movie! Yes, there were SOME things that were left out, but overall, it was GREAT!! It was NOT horrible at all. Daniel does SUCH a great job acting in it. The effects were good,(i loved the demenotrs!!) and i felt Harry's anger and sadness in it. Daniel did a really good job. Ok, so there was only one Quidditch match instead of like, 3. And Harry got his Firebolt at the end and not on Christmas.... but i loved it a lot and can't WAIT till I watch the DVD next month. Very good movie, and entertaining, and not whatsoever was it SLOW. I love Harry Potter to DEATH, both books and movies. I can only wait to see #4 next year!! This movie was AWESOME and frightening! I love HP!!!
Leslie ( )
I think the movie could have followed the story line much better but there is no doubt that the movie is much better than the last two! HARRY POTTER ROCKS!
MyLipsAreSealed (SamScaryMovie3@AOL.Com)
Loved it, It will be the best movie...EVER.
r0b (
blam this horrible movie. it makes me want to gouge out my eyes with a sewing needle. it lacks plot, harry potter is simply a whiner, and the entire series is horrible overall.
Jason (
I disagree with you 4/5 rating. Though this movie may lack points of plot, you cannot compare a movie of this calbar to a brilliant book. This movie is amazaming, this cintaemography rocks, the acting is way better, and is it much more enteraning than the previous two! It should have gotten 5/5!
Katlyn (
Though the movie was well made, the overall story did not follow that of the book. Some of the special effects and computer-generated images were well done, but some were disappointing. Buckbeak the hippogriff was very nicely made, but Lupin as the werewolf was poorly made. He had no fur! The ending was also frustrating. No train ride, and the firebolt being thrown on moviegoers. So sad. I am afraid to say that though this would have been a great movie for those who have not read the book, the true Harry Potter fan should share my disappointment.
Ellis Anderson (
Nice and complete review - I hope the fundamentalists will see this flick for what it is - entertainment. Just because Disney made "Mary Poppins', 'Sleeping Beauty' etc. in which magic is used, doesn't mean that magic movies made by other production companies is satanic, etc.
Sarah Draper (
I love the movie, it was so cool. I had a blast at it. We had to wait in line for an hour! But it was worth it! P.S You rock Harry!!!
robin (
REview of HP & the Pr. of Az. -Well written & entertaining! You told me everthing that I wanted to know! Thank You for a job well done!
psychoCOW (
I think the movie was fantastic. FINALLY, Warner Brothers got it right. And for all you fans who're crying over the details, C'MON now! It would be improbable and impractical to get every nice scene into the movie (Although I would have loved to see Harry win the Quidditch Cup). All in all, the best HP movie so far
Phil Stephens (
The film is good but, I think this review is slightly over rateing the film, I feel they have lost too much of the story line found in the books, anyone see the film without reading the book will lose to much of the plot.
joe (
I hated this movie. It was nowhere near the book.
Review critic (
I also am concerned with your perception of Ron. He shows great bravery in the third book. I hope this movie shows that as well. He is not whiny and not a wimp. He is a brillant strategist and Harry is no better at his studies than Ron is. That said, this looks like the best movie ever. I can't wait to see it. I already have my tickets bought at fandango.
Courtney P. (
I think it is going to be the best movie of the year!!
Matty (
I loved the review - groovy. I am just a little upset at those people who were so critical of the trio in the first two movies. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?!? They were 11! I'm sure you weren't even close to being even that decent when you were that age. Those movies were also their first big time acting. So please excuse them for being new at this. They are growing up - you have to take this into account and as they act more, the acting will get better. As far as comparing the books and the films - what's best to do here is view the books and films as separate entities - no movie will ever follow the book down to the last T. Look at Lord of the Rings - you didn't hear people pissed off because they didn't include every little detail. The book was scrutinized for the film, and then certain parts were cut because they're not consider crucial elements to the MAIN story. Go into this movie as just a movie, not a film-adaptation of a book. You'll get your hopes up and then you'll be disappointed. I'm looking forward to see this movie for the sake of it being a good-looking movie, not just because I'm a huge HP fan. Oh yeah, the review was great.
Chanel (
Now I am seriously doubting the movie. Why the cheesy scene? Why! Gosh, they just had to ruin it. Who knows, I might just like it after all. I hope Rupert isn't THAT scared the whole time. He's not supposed to be a wimp. And I'll only take Emma's acting skills seriously when I see the movie for myself, because....I have seen trailers, and I do agree that Dan is quite moody in the film. He even cries? Wow, can't wait! I wonder how he got himself to. I mean, it's not hard, but I still wonder. Like Emma in the second film, she said she kept her eyes openned for a very long time and thought something sad, and the voila! But she didn't pan so well, now did she?
kim (
I am increasingly disturbed by Ron appearing as though he is a total git...all scared and overwhelmed about everything. In the first movie, it was clear why Harry chose Ron as his best friend - and as Ron also demonstrated to Hermione - during the wizard chess match, where his courage and logic skills were outstanding. After something like that, why is he constantly cringing and whining? Also, dont forget he stole the Ford Angila and rescued Harry twice; once from Little Whinging for his birthday, and again at the train station when Dobby blocked the entrance to Platform 9 3/4. He is every bit as much a hero and important part of the team as Harry and Hermione. Give the guy some credit!
mackdonald ea sampson (
a twist of plot that i would not have expected in the first two. brilliant!!!
Kelsey (
i am INCREDIBLEY upset about how everyone says that the book is a light little plot line... and that it's the "backdrop". it's a HARRY POTTER MOVIE. it should follow the HARRY POTTER books!
Paola Denise Sales (
I think this is the best yet, of the three Harry Potter films...Cuaron did a good job! Dan, Emma, & Rupert were amazingly good!...This is definitely the movie to see...and GOF? I'm looking forward to it...Anyways, to all the Harry Potter fans out there, see ya'll in the movies! (^_^)
snuffles (
i read this book about a million times and i love it. hpoa is the best book ever!
Paula West (
well, i have read the 3rd HP book about 4 times now and to tell you the truth i cant wait till it is possible for me to see the movie on June 4th. Reading reviews are awsome and gives me a new level on what to expect. this review puts a new line on awsome movie... I cant wait for the movie so i can give my opinion on it too!
Jenchan (
I agree, but the cheesy ending worries me...this is the second review I've read that says the ending is a very big weak point of the movie...
Istari (
An excellent movie... I think it's the best movie of Harry Potter I've ever seen... I'm too happy... Perfect..
amber (
it's great!
Ida (
im glad too hear what u have to say. I am a big fan of HP so i cant wait to see it in the cinema with my best friend.That was lovely to know that almost all people say the same. its good!!! Thx Ida
sara (
I really enjoyed the Review and was glad to see the comments you had on the movie. However, I best comment on your belief that Ron is the weakest member of the group, physically and magically. In the books, the three characters have different strengths and Ron is the strategist who also informs Ron and Hermione about the wizarding world. The movies seriously lack in their portrayal of Ron, although Rupert does an amazing job!
rolf (
Really enjoyed the review. Lots of substance wthout revealing too much of the plot.

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