Harry Potter's second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry is more exciting than his previous outing, "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone." Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is still comically abused by his dastardly stepparents, the Dursleys. It is up to Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and the rest of the Weasely family to rescue Harry from his muggle existence with a flying car.
Enroute to school, Harry and Ron endure a battle with a whomping willow and meet some new characters. The oddest new character is Dobby the house elf, a computer enhanced character who warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts. The most sinister new character is Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) the father of the snotty little Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), a rival classmate of Harry's. We are also introduced to the new Defense against the Dark Arts Professor, the self promoting Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh). Fortunately for Harry and Ron, their best friend Hermonie (Emma Watson), Hagrid the jolly giant (Robbie Coltrane) and Headmaster Dumbledore (the late Richard Harris) also return for another school year of alchemy and magic lessons. There is evil afoot when it is discovered that the Chamber of Secrets is open in the basement of Hogwarts. Some monster is turning students, ghosts and cats into stone and Hogwarts faculty seem unable to figure out how to confront this beast.However thanks to Harry's courage, Hermonie's intellect and Ron's wisecracks, the evil does not stand a chance at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Production for "Chamber of Secrets" began five days after "Sorceror's Stone" opened with record breaking box office results. There is a confidence that resonates throughout this new film. Though a foot taller, the young actors slip into their roles and recreate familiarity for the audience. Director Chris Columbus surpasses himself and confidently excises some elements from the book with out losing the spirit of Author J.K.Rowling.
Yet, there is a nagging feeling that "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" might be the cinematic peak of the series. With the demise of Richard Harris, the pivotal role of Professor Dumblemdore must be replaced for future movies. Weary from the daily grind of directing this franchise, Columbus is passing the director's reins to Alfonso Cuaro'n ("Y Tu' Mama Tambiien"). There's been talk that Radcliffe, Grint and Watson will outgrow their roles before the proposed seven book series is completed. This would be a sad thing because the charm of this movie is seeing how these kids grow up.
One hopes the commitment to quality continues as the series progresses. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is a very good movie because it offers a strong narrative, interesting characters and a grand visual design.
"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is a movie that should be seen on the big screen with clear acoustic speakers and disciplined children in the audience. If those elements are not available, then light a candle and reading the book will provide a good alternative.