Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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Or for short, Harry Chamber Pot. In the second screen adaptation of a J.K. Rowling children's book, our now pubescent hero fumbles his way to a giant, squirming, slithering basilisk (syn., cockatrice) via a concealed orifice in the girls' lavatory, the haunt of a ghost called Moaning Myrtle: "Harry, if you die down there, you're welcome to share my toilet." Symbol-hunters, go to it! (The potty, the hole, the lizard, the moans, la mort.... ) But do not neglect, while you are at it, the Master Race motif of the Aryan-blond "pure-bloods" seeking to purge their school of the mongrelized "muggle-borns." At a little past two and a half hours, the film is unforgivably overlong and overstuffed. Yet one is bound to agree with some of the obliging blurbists that this one is "better than the first," regardless of the relative heat or chill of one's enthusiasm. "There is a plot," as pointed out by the computer-generated Dobby, a sort of Jar Jar Binks Jr., "a plot to make most terrible things happen." Right. So much for plot. (More of it, at any rate, than in the first one, and less preamble.) Viewed, however, as a seam-bursting compilation of state-of-the-art special effects -- the flying car, the crash-landing of same in the Whomping Willow, the errant owl, the Blue Pixies, the Eight-Legged Freaks, etc., etc. -- the film can be faulted only for its lack of let-up and its absence of judgment: faults so common these days as to have become norms. And as far as faults go, none goes farther than the upchucking of half-foot slugs by the poor little Weasley boy, a more "realistic" effect than you could possibly want. (Pass the chamber pot, please.) Still, that giant basilisk, its eyes pecked out by a reconstituted phoenix, is good enough to overcome the jaw-slackening monotony of it all, even to overcome the carbon-copy Alien moment of the hero nose to nose with the mucus-dripping monster. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Kenneth Branagh, and (the late) Richard Harris; directed by Chris Columbus. (2002) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG | 2 hours, 41 minutes
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