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    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    Stars:Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman

    I'm afraid what you read here will be more of a sociopolitical essay than a movie review. Now, before you groan and surf elsewhere, let me explain myself. When the Harry Potter phenomenon really started to take off, people came out of the woodwork to decry it. Now, this sort of thing happens whenever something becomes a cultural hit: a number of pseudo-iconoclastic groups step forward to claim the spotlight of opposition. Everyone's for this, so we'll come out against it and garner attention.

    There are two different, yet eerily similar groups vying for that spotlight. You've got the modern-day practitioners of witchcraft, Wiccan and otherwise, and you have the holier-than-thou section of Christian fundamentalists. The arguments of the real-life witches are easy enough to dismiss; their platform seems to be an approach of "we were witches before J.D. Salinger came along popularized the mythology," and to prove their point they concoct some trivial complaints like "they all ride their broomsticks backwards!"

    More disturbing, however, are those who burn the Harry Potter novels, protest at movie theaters, and go to whatever means are necessary to suppress and condemn the content. I consider myself a conservative, at the right end of the political spectrum, and I consider myself a religious man. I am also Christian; not the convert-or-be-damned Christian, not the my-faith-is-better-than-yours Christian, but instead the try-to-be-a-good-person Christian. The way anti-Potter activists carry on their campaign is an insult to my religion and my political contemporaries.

    The greatest thing about the Harry Potter phenomenon is that it's getting kids to read. Reading is exciting again, as the long lines of little-'uns waiting to purchase each successive release will attest. Nothing that gets kids to break away from their mind-numbing television receivers can be all that bad, can it? The world of Harry Potter is a surreal, escapist, fantasy environment in which children (and adults, too) can let their imaginations run rampant. When I was young, I remember reading several installments of a series of books that fostered the same surreal, escapist fantasy filled with magic. These books were collectively called the Chronicles of Narnia.

    The Narnia books, I later discovered, were laced with Christian ideals, but at the time I read them, I didn't care. The books were fun, interesting, imaginative, and they got me to read. Harry Potter is the same way. Kids don't care about the calls "blasphemy" around them, they just want an adventure.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone brings that adventure to the lucrative big screen. The movie is fun, interesting, and imaginative, and adults can enjoy it as much as their kids can. How many child-oriented movies can make such a claim? All too many movies geared for younger audiences, I'll cite Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius as an example (I could barely tolerate the full-length trailer), are so dumbed-down and tripe-filled that kids probably walk out of the theater with less than they had when they walked in. And their parents, certainly, are even worse-off.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was different. My wife, having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book, all but pleaded with me to go see the movie with her. The theater was filled with kids, munching loudly on popcorn, laughing at the sight gags, and repeatedly saying, "Ooh! Here comes my favorite part!" Aside from the frequently-ringing cell phones, the audience was generally well-behaved, which is sometimes hard to find at a kid-oriented movie (not that I watch that many, mind you).

    I enjoyed this first of what will likely be several Harry Potter movies. The casting seemed flawless (especially Alan Rickman), the acting was above par, and the visuals were more than satisfactory. The plot felt like a string of loosely-tied-together events, like watching a marathon of TV shows with a faint plot arc, but the effect was minor and not terribly distracting.

    Any comparisons between The Sorcerer's Stone and Fellowship of the Ring are completely unwarranted. They both have a very different feel to them, and despite being big-grossing highly-anticipated movies featuring wizards which were released relatively close to each other, they have nothing in common.

    For all those who denounce Harry Potter for whatever reason, lighten up and enjoy the fantasy.

    Comments? E-mail movies@aldebaran.net