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After spending a horrid summer with his Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) and Uncle Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths), Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and is happy to meet up with best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Although Professor Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) are still on staff, new teacher Professor Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) craves the spotlight that Harry’s earned last year. Then the school is gripped by fear as they learn that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened, with terrifying results.

Review by Louise Keller:
This is a splendid two-disc DVD package and with just a click of the remote control, it’s simple to re-enter the magical world of Harry Potter in this second adventure, where marvellous production design and extraordinary effects are so beautifully integrated into the narrative, they don’t seem like special effects at all.

You can revisit this bewitching adventure in widescreen, as well as enjoying a host of engrossing and diverse features. There are 19 additional/extended scenes (scenes are short and will be mostly enjoyed by aficionados of the film) and the self-guided tours are beautifully assembled allowing us to hone in on specific details of different areas such as Dumbledore’s office, the Chamber of Secrets and Diagon Alley. The games are a lot of fun – they may have stumped me, but will give little cause for concern to the target audience. I especially enjoyed the interviews with author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves, who give a keen insight into not only the process of bringing the characters to life, but the very personal experience of creating them in the first place. “I was prickly when I met Steve,” she admits. “He was going to be ripping apart my ‘baby’ – I was worried… but it turns out I really like him.” 

The DVD offers hours of enchanting entertainment for the whole family, including short interviews with the young cast who describe the characters in their own words, a gallery of production sketches and a DVD Rom feature (Mac compatible) with more than 15 special features including the One Voice DVD technology.

While the first film concentrated on introducing us to the bewitching world of Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets offers a magic adventure of greater complexity than the original with more opportunities to develop the characters and storyline. One of my favourite sequences is that of the flying car that gets ‘whomped’ by the charmed Whomping Willow tree. And while the word whomp may not appear in your dictionary, it could well be an appropriate addition to any dictionary of similes. The subterranean Spiders Hollow, fashioned like a huge amphitheatre is also impressive with its awesome monstrous spiders. In addition to these huge arachnids, the gigantic slithering Basilisk snake which inhabits the chamber, offers some of the scariest moments, as it chases Harry through tunnels and caves. 

Of course, all the familiar faces of the much loved characters created by Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman and the late Richard Harris are back, plus welcome new additions. There’s Dobby the super, self-chastising computer-generated elf, Kenneth Branagh’s divinely narcissistic Gilderoy Lockart, Moaning Myrtle who lives in the U-bend of a loo in the girls’ lavatories and Jason Isaac’s evil Lucius. Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint and Hermione Granger have grown with their characters, and deliver assured performances in the central roles. We are firmly enveloped in the reality of castles walled with Cluny tapestries, levitating candles and paintings that come to life, and caught in the middle of a dangerous game of Quidditch, when the stakes are high. John Williams’ seductive theme with its ethereal phrases is a natural extension to this world of wizards and wands, with additional music by William Ross. 

It may be too long at 2 hours 40 minutes, but this very satisfying 2 disc DVD offering is indeed a treat for all ages.

Published April 10, 2003

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CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

RUNNING TIME: 161 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2 disc set; 16 X 9; 2.35:1; 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: 19 additional/extended scenes; Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves; interviews with cast; self-guided tours including Dumbledore's office; Gallery of Production Sketches; DVD Rom features with animated Hogwarts timeline, one-voice technology, slider puzzle challenge featuring motion video, printable magic trading cards to collect;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: April 11, 2003

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