Genre:   Children's adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Rating:  PG (for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language)

Release Date:  November 15, 2002

Actors:  Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Fiona Shaw, John Cleese, Devon Murray, Julie Walters, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Miriam Margolyes, Christian Coulson

Director:  Chris Columbus

Special Notes:  The next series entry, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, begins production next spring and will be directed by Alfonso Cuarón (A Little Princess).  And who did Cuarón beat out for the job?  None other than Chamber of Secrets star Kenneth Branagh.  And then, how does a movie franchise replace an actor its producer calls ''irreplaceable?''  Richard Harris' death at 72 has posed a problem.  He had hoped to play the 2,000-year-old wizard again in the third movie as well as the four sequels beyond that.  Now, producers are considering Harris's body double for the role, Harry Robinson.  He is the same age as Harris (72) and can mimic Harris's voice as well.

Plot:  Harry Potter (Radcliffe) is fed-up with living with his muggle relatives and disturbed by a house-elf named Dobby who appears only to Harry and warns him of the danger that awaits him at school if he returns.  But when his best friend Ron (Grint) appears at his window in a flying cat to rescue Harry, the two happily speed back to another year at Hogwarts school.  Harry reunites with Hermione (Watson), Hagrid (Coltrane), headmaster Dumbledore (Harris), old professors (Rickman, Smith), a new "famous" one (Branagh) another professor who raises screaming plants (Margolyes), Harry's old enemy Draco (Felton), and his evil father Lucius Malfoy (Isaacs).  As he settles into his classes (chasing Pixies, planting screaming mandrakes and playing Quidditch) he begins to hear a haunting voice that leads him straight to victims who've been paralyzed.  After several students are attacked (including Hermione) the school's very existence becomes threatened, so Harry and Ron determine to save the school by discovering the truth.  On that road to discovery they are surrounded by giant tarantulas in a dark and scary forest, and they discover the legendary Chamber of Secrets where Harry comes face to face with the ghost of a student named Tom Riddle (Coulson) and fights one of the most terrifying giant snakes you've ever seen.

Good:  After Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone grossed almost $1 billion worldwide (not to mention the untold fortune from videos, toys, and other tie-ins), you could almost count on the fact that director Chris Columbus wasn't going to tinker much with his magical hit-making formula.  From director to production designer, everyone is back for this adaptation of the second book of J.K. Rowling's which is darker and more dramatic but still opulent, enchanting, and filled with imaginative special effects, likeable characters, and magical scenes that are entertaining.  This action-packed, special effects-filled movie has unique touches kids will get a kick out of, like a cloak that lets Harry disappear, a flying car, friendly talking ghosts, paintings that movie, an adventurous-fast-action, flying broom stick Quidditch matches, plants with roots that scream before they are planted, blue pixies that wreak havoc in class, a bird that dies, then is reborn with powers to heal, and much more.  I was spell-bound by the details put into each scene and entertained by the strong ensemble of actors who are all very comfortable with their characters.  I especially enjoyed John Williams's wonderful score which of course adds to the drama.  Except for the whopping 2 hours and 41 minutes that some kids may find too long--but others won't even realize flew by--this is an entertaining, well-made movie that is strictly for mature kids who can understand the difference between fantasy and reality and adults who should go with them and further explain that difference to their kids afterwards.