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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) lives with the Dursley’s, who have lied to him about his parents’ fate and keep him in a cupboard. Mysterious letters summon Harry, but the Dursleys destroy them. Finally Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) arrives to take Harry, via Platform 9 ¾, to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft: he is a wizard! Harry befriends fellow wizards-in-training Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). Together with his new friends, Harry embarks on the adventure of a lifetime at Hogwart’s, a wondrous place beyond Harry’s wildest imagination where he discovers his extraordinary talents and finds the home and the family he never had.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
At time of writing (June 16, 2002) there are not-so secret curses in place upon the wicked heads of the Warner Bros clan for releasing this disc in pan & scan. Reports have it that this is a cynical money grabbing exercise – and since Warner Bros have refused to comment on the matter, who knows – to milk the hungry, eager, innocent market. The fans who have waited anxiously to revisit the film in glorious digital form and play with the extra features have been bullied into buying this inferior version – and will be tempted into buying yet another disc when it is released in the original ratio (widescreen) sometime in the near future. 

The fact that the features on this 2 disc set are all in widescreen would back up that scenario. Maybe the retailers should take a broom to Warners – they’re the ones that lose the sales to their American competition, as Australian fans scorn the pan & scan version and import their discs.

Oh, J.K. Rowling, where are you now that you’re needed!? Having controlled all other aspects of the adaptation to the screen, how did this bastardry slip by you? As for Warner Bros, a big fat raspberry to you; may all your brooms break in half. (Take a look at New Line’s marketing of Lord of the Rings multiple DVDs for a lesson in how to milk the market without offending it.) 

So, dear reader, you won’t be surprised that this review is not about the film on the disc. There’s only two thirds of it there…

All the extras on disc 2 are rich, entertaining and true to the spirit of the film and to the world of Harry Potter in general. And apart from a couple of brief variations in brightness, the technical quality of the transfer is superb, if sometimes on the dark side. Sound is full and solid throughout.

To begin, you have to find the secret sequence that enables you to enter Diagon Alley – the bricks wont crumble till you do. Similar game-playing elements haunt the disc, most of it aimed at the younger set. There is, however, a 15 minute plus feature of interviews with the filmmakers, which is suitable (and interesting) for adults.

The tour of Hogwarts and the informative side trips are well presented and engaging, and the navigation is well designed. The only quibble with the navigation is that the stardust indicator of where you are choosing to click is sometimes a bit hard to see. 

You can try and catch the Snitch – using the arrows – and you can even get a quick ‘taste’ of the jellybeans. You chose your own wand and mix your own potions – all of which are risky experiments that may or may not go wrong on your screen. 

The use of the film’s music throughout the disc is commendable, and the overall packaging spells quality. 

Published June 20, 2002

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CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Ian Hart, Fiona Shaw

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

RUNNING TIME: 147 mins (approx; feature only)

SPECIAL FEATURES: (disc 2): self guided tour of Hogwarts; mix your potions, explore Diagon Alley with various side trips; plus DVD ROM PC features.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: May 28, 2002

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