CUP OF CHEER
Main Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson
Director: Mike Newell
Our little stop-over in Atlanta concluded this morning with my filming a segment for CNN Headline news, tentatively entitled ‘An Eye Opener with MNM’. I was photographed on the veranda of the Margaret Mitchell house with a large Brandy Alexander (apparently mint juleps are for racing season and the Derby was some weeks ago) wearing a large hoopskirt in chartreuse and tangerine. Now I am a winter so those sorts of pastels aren’t really my colors but there wasn’t time to run up something in a nice jewel tone satin and I had to make do with what was in the CNN stock. I sipped my drink, gave a few choice words about southern hospitality and the benefits of starting my day with a nice healthy cocktail. (I’m sure I recently heard something like this on Dr. Oz).
When the filming was over, we headed back to Hartsfield for our flight back to Los Angeles and Chateau Maine. We really need to get back to our various business projects as I have noticed a tendency for things to sometimes get a teensy bit out of control during our absences. While we were waiting in the departure lounge, who should turn up on our same flight but Eve Harrington. Now Eve and I go way back to when we were both up for the Sarah Siddons award. She won that year but I remain very proud of my work in that production of Stalag17, especially my big first act tap finale. There are some that think that Eve connived her way into a career but as she went from award winning actress to fourth billing on Dragons Ho!, that obscure cable sit-com about an epic fantasy bordello, I’m not sure it’s been much of a career in recent years. Not everyone can have the stellar always in the public eye high profile life that I have had in Hollywood. I was naturally polite to her, even when she yelled ‘Vicki Lester’ loud enough for the whole terminal to hear. I guess she gets her publicity any way she can.
We finally managed to shake her at LAX and, as Normy and I were exhausted from the cross country flight where we were once again, due to some clerical error, shoe horned into coach. The limousine that was supposed to meet us at the airport was also mysteriously missing and we had to make do with a taxi driven by some troglodyte who absolutely refused to help with my 37 pieces of matching Louis Vuitton. By the time we had them hauled into the house with the aid of Princess Anastasia, the cat, we were tired and grumpy and headed off to bed with hot toddies and looking for the comfort of an old friend in the movie viewing department.
We settled on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I have reviewed earlier titles in this series but in reviewing my archives, came to realize that the later titles have not yet been subjected to my tireless scrutiny. Most of the western world has seen the film series and read the books so they are pretty much critic proof but I feel that I owe all you lovely people sitting out there in the dark reviews of not just the latest releases and obscure novelties but also popular films from a few years ago that are now in the ten dollars and under bin at your local big box retailer. This film was the fourth in what was to prove to be an eight film series and was originally released in 2005 and, like every other Harry Potter film, was an enormous success.
In this installment, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his compatriots Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have turned fourteen and are back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for their fourth year. We first meet them as they go to the wizarding world’s big sports ball hoopla, the quidditch world cup where Ireland vies with Bulgaria for the title. Things turn ugly, however, when dark wizards appear and trash the revelers’ camp. The action then shifts to the school where are regular cast of Hogwartians is joined by students from two other wizarding schools, Durmstrang (all athletic young Slavic men) and Beauxbatons (all female escapees from the Paris ballet). A wizarding contest, the Tri-wizard Tournament, is to be held at Hogwarts with a champion from each school to compete. The champions are to be chosen by a powerful magical object, the titular Goblet of Fire. On the appointed day, the goblet spits forth the names of Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy), Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski) and Cedric Diggory (a pre Twilight Robert Pattinson). But wait, to everyone’s great surprise the goblet coughs up a fourth champion, none other than Harry Potter, despite his being too young and only half trained. To the consternation of headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Harry is forced to compete. Who put his name in the goblet and why? Will he survive the difficult and dangerous tasks that are part of the competition? Could the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) somehow be using Harry to regain his powers? All this and more is covered in a rapidly paced two hours of run time.
The large and familiar cast of Potterverse characters all have their moments. Notable additions in this outing include Brendan Gleeson as Mad-eye Moody, the new defense against the dark arts teacher with a constantly roving magical eye who helps guide Harry through the competition and Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter, a particularly odious wizard tabloid reporter. The adults continue to grow into their roles with particularly good work from Alan Rickman as the villainous Professor Snape and Robbie Coltrane as the bumbling giant, Hagrid. The younger cast is somewhat uneven. While the actors have aged along with their roles, they don’t yet seem to have made the transition from child actor to adult actor and their ability to be believable varies mightily from scene to scene. A Gigi-esque moment when Hermione shyly descends the grand staircase to attend her first ball which is charming and works on multiple levels shows what the movie can be but then there’s Harry’s completely idiotic crying jag when he confronts death in a very personal way. Matthew Lewis’s Neville starts his transition from comic relief dork towards hunk and Bonnie Wright’s Ginny continues to be a bit of a charisma vortex.
Director Mike Newell keeps the pace going so none of the more precarious moments lasts terribly long. He seems to have a visual sense left over from his Four Weddings and a Funeral as all the young characters have been styled with Hugh Grant floppy hair. There are a number of shots where I could swear he was going for a Pantene commercial with all the tossing of heads. Stephen Kloves’ adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel is serviceable, getting in all the high points and streamlining the plot to keep the film’s running time down. He also gives some great throw away lines to secondary characters. My favorite sequence, however, is not any of the special effects laden action sequences (and a dragon chase goes on for far too long), but rather the students reactions to the Yule Ball, a huge formal dance party that is part of the Tri-wizard Tournament. Everything about this part of the film, from Maggie Smith trying to teach the boys to dance, to Neville’s practicing his dance steps in his bedroom, to the charming waltz provided by Patrick Doyle, to the late night mosh pit, showing young witches and wizards are like teens everywhere, is absolutely delightful.
This, like the other Potter movies, is suitable for older children and teens but has enough intrigue and depth of character and theme to keep adults entertained. It is best viewed in correct sequence with the other films in the series but works as a stand-alone. There is just enough exposition to bring a Potter naïf into the world but most of the richness of detail will be lost on viewers who have not seen the previous installments.
Exploding leprechaun. Giant headmistress. Sparking staves. Dragon fire. Howling eggs. Gratuitous bathing ghost. Underwater hostages. Maze running. Gratuitous dismemberment. Dueling wands.
Originally from Seattle Washington, land of mist, coffee and flying salmon, Mrs. Norman Maine sprang to life, full grown like Athena, from Andy’s head during a difficult period of life shortly after his relocation to Alabama.