Release Date:  November 18, 2005
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images)
Genre:  Adventure/Fantasy/Mystery/Thriller
Run Time:  157 min.
Director:  Mike Newell
Actors:  Eric Sykes, Timothy Spall, David Tennant, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Jeff Rawle, Robert Pattinson, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, and Stanislav Ianevski

If your friends and co-workers have bloodshot eyes this month, perhaps their children have kept them up during the night with “Harry Potter” nightmares.  It might go something like this:  “Daddy, help me.  I keep dreaming about that scary skeleton in the sky with a giant snake coming out of its mouth.”  Or, “Mommy, I need to sleep in bed with you. I had a dream about that Dark Lord zombie stealing a bone from a grave, mixing it with Harry Potter’s blood and coming back from the dead to torture people.” 

For those addicted to “Harry Potter” books, no doubt they will see “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”  But perhaps this fourth movie, adapted from the popular series written by J.K. Rowling, will be the one that compels us to ask why we would put this material into our children’s heads. As I looked around the theater and saw dozens of little children dressed as wizards and sorcerers, watching one horror after another on the big screen, my heart broke for the sheer lack of parental discernment.

Certainly the storytelling is compelling. “The Goblet of Fire” is set in Harry’s fourth year at the Hogwarts School.  This time, Harry’s name has been mysteriously drawn by the Goblet of Fire as one of two students who will represent his school in the TriWizard Tournament.  In this competition, the champions will be tested on three levels in hopes of winning the Cup and attaining eternal glory.  This is no ordinary test, either. It involves dragon slaying and a hideous maze that has the potential to kill the children who don’t make it through. Of the contests, it is said, “These tasks are designed to test you in the most brutal way … almost cruel.” 

To complicate matters, Voldemort's Death Eaters are gaining strength and giving evidence that the Dark Lord is ready to rise again. In fact, Harry Potter has been having nightmares and visions that could possibly be the key to overcoming the Dark Lord, but he wonders who can help him decipher the dreams. As Harry faces the challenge of his life, he hones his skills and tries to figure out whom he can trust, including his classmates, competitors, and even the new teacher who is mentoring him.  Unfortunately, it’s not just a game, and it’s not optional. It’s a matter of life and death.

The screenplay is intriguing writing. And if you haven’t read the book, you will likely be confused for a while about the characters and story line.  But that didn’t seem to be a problem for our packed-out preview audience, most of which was already up to speed on plotlines.  The movie is complicated – and long – but amazingly, it holds the audience’s attention for over 2-1/2 hours. The special effects are also masterful, especially the dome, the flying, the dragons, the maze, and the magic of the spells.

The "Harry Potter" franchise boils down to one issue for parents. Witchcraft, wizardry, magic, spells, and other supernatural “powers” can pull on the strings of our souls, tapping into the natural, God-given desire in us to perform great spiritual exploits. Children, too, have these interests in the supernatural, but often lack the discernment necessary to make wise choices in their selection of entertainment.

So why not teach our children the real deal so that the counterfeit will no longer be appealing?  Why not teach them about the School of the Holy Spirit, where ordinary children can be transformed into sword-wielding champions in a real Kingdom of good and evil?  It is definitely something worth pondering. 

As I left the theater, I asked the father of two small children if he thought his kids would have nightmares after seeing the movie.  He replied, “Oh, no. Trust me, they’ve seen way worse than this.”  Oh no is right.  God, help us.

AUDIENCE Adults and older teens

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  A few light obscenities.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Excessive. One teacher continually drinks hard liquor from a flask
  • Sex/Nudity:  A stained glass woman comes alive while Harry is in the tub, and as she moves, she shows off her naked breasts. A ghost joins Harry in the tub and continues to try to see his body through the waning bubbles.
  • Violence:  Excessive. Guy gets stabbed in the hand; small creature gets tortured and killed; teachers cast spells on students, turning them into creatures; man’s face shows up and speaks as fiery embers in fireplace, fire-breathing dragons chase students, biting at them; people are tortured; boy is captured and cut with knife, his blood stolen for a potion; shrubs in maze come alive and try to suffocate children; vines grab children’s legs, consuming them; children are caught and chained under water during contest; hideous, screeching sea creatures attack contestants, and boy is killed during this school competition.