HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
directed by Chris Columbus
opens Nov. 15 at Cinerama, Majestic Bay, Metro, Pacific Place, and others
MORE AND MERRIER wars at Hogwarts School—161 minutes of them—pertain to the accidental reopening of an old secret chamber containing all manner of disgusting stuff. Only now we are asked to buy young Harry as a reluctant superstar, having established his wizardly credentials in the first movie. Trouble is, both the character and the actor (Daniel Radcliffe) lack the pizzazz to be a persuasive pop phenomenon. Even with the more forceful presence of the wonderful Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's pals, Chamber adds up to not a whole lot more than a collection of amusing special- effects set pieces. Buried mercifully deep within the plot's endless twists is some dutiful moralizing about the noxiousness of the idea of pure blood and the importance of using our talents wisely.
That said, Chris Columbus' sequel is faster, livelier, and a good deal funnier than his original, due to the presence of some new characters. Among them are an overprotective house elf named Dobby whose bug-eyed charms may cause Spielberg and Lucas to sue for plagiarism; Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, the toilet-dwelling ghost of the girls' bathroom; and a hilarious Kenneth Branagh as a narcissistic writer who must surely be modeled on the end- less literary-luncheon bores that author J.K. Rowling has had to sit next to as the price of fame.
Parent alert: My 8-year-old date, a total Potter freak and no wimp, really got off on Ron Weasley vomiting slugs but pronounced the PG- rated movie "very scary"—and he wasn't grinning as he said it.