‘Harry Potter’ keeps the magic alive

Will one of you astrophysics majors build a Nimbus 2000 so I can play Quidditch already?

“The Chamber of Secrets” is a comfortable journey into the second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you’re a fan of the books and the first film edition “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” then this movie is a lot like returning to summer camp. It’s been a long year, and you’ll be really happy to see your old friends again – which doesn’t mean things are the same. For one, puberty is descending on our favorite wizards and witches in training.

The bigger, more important difference is that this version has a darker plotline and more impressive visuals. How good are the special effects this time around? Let me say that adults will be entertained for hours, while small children will have nightmares for weeks. The best of these effects are those in the requisite Quidditch game. You’ll want a flying broom for Christmas by the time that sequence is done.

It’s the second year at Hogwarts, and it’s just pure drama from the opening scene. Those god-awful Muggle (for the uninitiated, a Muggle is a non-magic person) relatives are just as horrible to Harry as ever. Then there’s Dobby, a self-mutilating house elf (who is in the running against “Star Wars’” Jar Jar Binks as the most annoying computer generated creature ever created) breaks into Harry’s home to warn him that going back to school is equivalent to signing a death warrant. His mission is to save Harry by doing whatever it takes to keep him in the Muggle world, which makes for some odd yet incredibly hilarious actions on his part.

Of course, we know Harry doesn’t listen to house-elves, even though Dobby is right. From the portal at the train station that won’t work to a particularly chilling encounter with a Whomping Willow tree, Harry barely escapes with his life several times on his way to school.

There are hilarious sequences; however, the movie is 161 minutes long, so the laughs peter out after the first hour. You’ll definitely spend more time sitting with your mouth hanging open in awe than laughing.

The first hour of “Chamber of Secrets” has loads of fun surprises, such as the Mandrake plants, whose roots shriek like hellish babies and the “Howler” letter that scolds Ron on his mother’s behalf. (Be thankful that Howlers have not been invented. . .I have a feeling our SU boxes would be filled with way too many of those.)

Disaster follows Harry to the end of the film. As an increasing number of students become “petrified,” speculation about Hogwarts’ legendary Chamber of Secrets rises. The elusive Chamber is thought to be home to a monster.

Apparently one of the four co-founders of Hogwarts abandoned the school after his insistence that only pureblooded wizards and witches should be permitted at the school fell on deaf ears. According to legend, he retaliated by hiding a vicious monster in a secret room. Only a future descendant of his could unleash the monster’s wrath on Hogwarts.

Suspicion naturally falls on Draco Malfoy, whose father is ardently committed to ridding the institution of the children of non-magical parents, pejoratively known as “Mudbloods.”

But Harry Potter is another likely suspect. Is it possible that, like Luke Skywalker of “Star Wars,” Harry Potter himself is the unknowing descendent of the most evil being in history?

The suspicions are supported by the fact that Harry can speak Parseltongue. Think back to “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” when Harry surprises himself by talking to a snake at the zoo, setting it free and scaring his dim-witted cousin. While that was a confirmation of his wizardry then, here we find that this isn’t a common trait. It’s certainly not a good thing – few wizards, all of whom turned to evil, have the power to speak to snakes. It’s all very odd.

Harry and friends go out in search of answers. They confront innumerable spiders, writings in blood on the walls, falling rocks and the petrified victims.

“The Chamber of Secrets” is a definite must-see for anyone who enjoyed the first movie. It deserves credit for almost strictly adhering to the storyline. Enthusiasts of the book will be pleased. It’s long, but you won’t be looking at your watch.

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