Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Review
- Friday, November 15, 2002
BEWARE: SPOILERS LURK AHEAD
Bad: This time (as with the book) along with enchanting and imaginative comes a progressively darker storyline that parents need to pay close attention to. This is NOT a movie for younger children or "kiddie" friendly because of the intense scenes and scary elements. In fact, I would suggest it for mature kids only at age 9 or up. From the emphasis on the cruelty of Harry's Muggle family and how he feels more at home with "his kind" and the subtle but negative Muggle-ish comments, innuendoes and put-downs about kids who are "mud bloods" or part human, to Harry's "gift" of speaking "Parselmouth" or "snake talk" with a snake, to a diary possessed by a ghost that takes Harry back in time to view the legendary Chamber of Secrets (then later tries to kill him), to messages written in blood--this is a clearly a story for an older audience. This time around the focus isn't as much on "how" to do magic as much as it is on practicing the magic already learned to get Harry and friends out of trouble or situations that require them to escape harm. Then there are the scenes that are just plain scary like when Ron's flying car lands in a giant tree and the branches try and kill the boys, or when Harry and Ron are surrounded by giant tarantulas and barely escape the creepy army as it attacks their car, or when Harry finds the secret Chamber and is attacked by a giant snake that towers over him and hunts him down through a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Heck, even the house-elf Dobby is creepy looking and sort of annoyingly scary as he pops in and out of Harry's life.
Bottom Line: Parents, think back to when you were a kid. Remember how much fun it was to see movies filled with fantasy and magic? Did you survive? Did it change your faith or lifestyle after you saw that movie? I guess that's the question you'll have to ask yourself before you take your kids to see this movie. I realize movies are different these days and have the power to affect and influence your children's lives, so that's why it is important that you be the gatekeeper for your children. There has been a long-standing argument about Rowling's books and whether parents should let their kids read her books or see the movies. One argument for the books is that Harry is simply the hero representing good triumphing over evil to save the day, and that's obviously what makes any story work. But the "good vs. evil" battle is all in the context of a school for witchcraft specifically designed to train and teach children (who are witches or at least part witch) to become skilled and trained in their religion, much as a convent, monastery, temple or theological seminary would do. So in truth, the premise is based on the battle between "good witchcraft vs. bad witchcraft" which clearly embraces and condones that religion and lifestyle and brings to the forefront the question--"Is there such a thing as "good" witchcraft?" In truth, when all is said and done, most older children or young teens who see this movie will probably walk out and simply enjoy it for the entertaining value it presents. Others, who may be searching for something that would give them power or excitement in life, might possibly be tempted to further explore witchcraft because of seeing this film. But that's where your job as a parent comes in. You are the only one who knows your child. You are the only one who can determine how and even if a movie could possibly influence your child's life. It is up to you to be the gatekeeper and monitor what your children can or cannot, comprehend and/or process--and I think that's the best place to leave the debate.
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