Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone - PG

Best for: Kids 8 and up, and for adults who enjoy the books and want to see a magical, entertaining story.

What it's about: Based on the popular first book of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and set in modern times. After the death of his parents, baby Harry is delivered on the doorstep of the home of his "Muggles" relatives (Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths), where he's raised with resentment, cruelty and a family secret. On Harry's 11th birthday, a mysterious letter is delivered by the friendly giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) discovers he's destined for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is already famous for being the baby wizard who survived an attempt on his life from the evil wizard Voldemort; Harry bears a scar on his forehead to prove it. Harry befriends fellow wizards-in-training Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) and discovers a new family of wizards who accept and embrace him in their magical world. Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, John Hurt, John Cleese and many others also star.

The good: Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) stays true to Rowling's vision in this well-produced and directed homage to the best-selling series. From the opening scene to the closing credits, this magical story embodies all of the wonder, charm, excitement, hilarity, good vs. evil and, of course, magic, that the book does. To say this movie creates precedence in how children's movies should be made is not only an understatement but also a sad-but-true commentary on what big budgets and big names can buy in Hollywood. Needless to say, Warner Brothers wanted to create a template of excellence for every movie that will follow in the series ... and they did! Each frame is filled with incredible detail, from the costumes, sets, lighting and special effects, to the superb cast who (true to the book) embody their literary counterparts. Daniel Radcliffe quite simply is Harry Potter, an enormous weight to carry for any child star and the kind of defining role that will no doubt personify his acting career for the rest of his life. Every actor in this incredible cast seems to embody his or her character. It's rare when a movie has the audience applauding in the first scene, but this is an unusual movie with an incredible following. You will feel the anticipation and expectations of the audience you see it with. I enjoyed this film for all of the amazing artistic elements that went into it, and I wish every children's movie could be of this caliber (at least those recreating literary works). But I am equally reserved on calling it "family-friendly" because the film deals with the theme of witchcraft, and like it or not, teaching children that all of it is "just make-believe" is far from the truth.

However, for those wanting to enjoy what they have read in Rowling's book or those who simply want to be whisked away to an incredible world of magical fantasy, this movie is your E-ticket ride. This is one of those movies (like E.T., Jaws, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Star Wars, The Matrix, Titanic, etc.) that's going to make "movie history" at the box-office. But more importantly, it's going to be remembered by the younger generation, on which it will leave an impression. This is "movie magic" at its best and can only be deemed as enjoyable entertainment.

The not-so-good: The PG rating is for "some scary moments and mild language" which leaves the area of discernment wide open for parents. Obviously the rating is key in giving this movie the "appearance" of being "family-friendly" and thereby guaranteeing parents will take kids of all ages, delivering the huge box-office expected for this movie. Parents need to be aware that this movie isn't a "light-hearted" children's story with a traditional good vs. evil fairy tale theme, but is in fact (by Rowling's own admission) a dark battle of good witchcraft (by definition a debatable term) vs. bad witchcraft, or good vs. evil within the world of witchcraft. That is the point parents need to weigh in trying to decide if this movie is appropriate for their child. The story is obviously about magic, which is in every scene, and a few scenes will be intense even for adults, never mind a wide-eyed 6-year-old who can't differentiate between what's real and what's "movie-magic."