Once upon a time (and not that long ago), in the vivid, fertile imagination of author J.K. Rowling, a character was born: A boy. A young boy named Harry, who was destined to become one of the most beloved characters to emerge from a work of fiction in a long, long time, and was quickly embraced by young and old alike in all corners of the world. And now, thanks to the magic of the cinema, Harry and his companions fairly leap from the pages of the novel to the silver screen in the phenomenal motion picture, `Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,' directed by Chris Columbus and written for the screen by Steve Kloves. Indeed, Harry Potter is a boy, but not just any boy; because Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) just happens to be a wizard. But, orphaned as a baby, Harry has been raised by his Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) and Uncle Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths), who never let him in on the fact that he was, well-- what he was. It seems that Petunia didn't approve of her own sister-- Harry's mother-- because she was a witch; nor of Harry's father because he, too, was a wizard. When Harry turns eleven, however, the secret is out of the bag when-- after some strange goings-on-- a giant of a man named Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) shows up at the Dursley's door to collect Harry and take him off to `Hogwarts,' a school for wizards and witches and all who would perfect the gift with which they were born: The gift of magic! And from the moment Harry boards the train (from station platform nine-and-three-quarters) that will take him to his destiny, the magic is alive-- for Harry, and for the audience, as well; and it's a journey you will never forget.
What a monumental undertaking to even think of attempting-- translating and transferring this passionately beloved work from novel to the screen. Because to millions of people, Harry and his companions are so much more than merely characters in a book; these are characters for whom people have made a special place in their hearts, which puts a great burden of trust upon the man who would attempt to bring them to life. And Chris Columbus, it turns out, was the right man for the job. More than rising to the occasion and with some magic of his own-- and a lot of help from an extraordinarily talented cast and crew-- Columbus has delivered a film that is not only true to the story, but true to the very spirit that makes Harry Potter so special. The special effects are absolutely beyond astounding, and Columbus, with a keen eye for detail and without missing a beat, keeps it all on track and moving right along at a pace and with a sense of timing that makes this an absorbing, thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable experience from beginning to end. From the opening frame you get the feeling that you're about to have a singular experience; and you're right. Because you've just entered the world of Harry Potter. And it's magic.
Even having the best special effects do not a great movie make, however, and this film is no exception; what catapults this one to the top are the performances, beginning with Radcliffe, whom you quickly forget is an actor playing a part. And that about sums up what kind of a job this young man does here. Without question, he IS Harry Potter, physically and emotionally, and when he waves his wand and does what he does, you believe it. A wonderful performance by a gifted actor who has a great career ahead of him; without question the perfect choice for the role of Harry.
Also turning in excellent performances are Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson as Hermione. As with Radcliffe, the casting here could not have been more perfect. Grint is `Everyboy,' with that special glint in his eye and a manner that makes him especially endearing. And the spunky Watson adds some real sparkle to the film as Hermione, the one with the sense of urgency and the wherewithal to get things done; a real role model for young girls everywhere.
It's obvious that a lot of care went into the casting of this film, and it's a big part of why it is so successful. Richard Harris, as Headmaster Albus Dumbledore; Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall; John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander; Ian Hart as Professor Quirrell. Exceptional performances from one and all, with two that stand out as especially memorable: Robbie Coltrane, who readily conveys the fact that Hagrid's heart is of a size that matches that of the man; and Alan Rickman, as Professor Severus Snape, deliciously droll while demonstrating menace through the fine art of articulation.
The additional supporting cast includes John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), Zoe Wanamaker (Madame Hooch), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Harry Melling (Dudley) and David Bradley (Filch). From Rowling's imagination to the written page to real life (albeit via the movie screen), `Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' is a triumph many times over; a unique film of truly universal appeal, the likes of which is as rare as, well-- a sorcerer's stone. A film in which adults and children alike will rejoice, because it speaks to the heart in a universal language of life, love, experience and imagination; a film that states unequivocally that magic exists-- as long as there's a single child with a single dream somewhere in the world, and real wizards like J.K. Rowling, Chris Columbus, Steve Kloves and every member of this wonderful cast and crew around to bring it to life as they have here. An instant classic in every sense of the word, this is truly a film for the ages. A remarkable achievement, this IS the magic of the movies. I rate this one 10/10.