Warner Brothers
MSRP: $30.98
RUNNING TIME: 157 Minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• Conversations with the cast
• Reflections
on the fourth film
• Featurettes
explaining the effects of the Tri-Wizard Tournament
• DVD-Rom

Until The
Prisoner of Azkaban
hit I’d never been much for the Harry Potter films. The
first two were uneven and felt like highlight reels; I always felt I needed a
copy of the book at hand to make real sense of them. Azkaban was a huge improvement;
it actually felt like a film. I walked out thinking the series has finally hit
it’s stride.

In a way,
it has. The generally excellent cast has settled into their roles, and the art
and wardrobe teams feel as if they’ve become so familiar with the way Hogwarts
works that they can play a little bit. Goblet of Fire should be the best
film in the series, but it crams so much material into a relatively short time
that it can’t escape that old highlight reel feel.

The Flick

from the start, the film is off at a mad dash. Too much so, to be honest; a
trip to the Quidditch World Cup and the subsequent appearance of the Death
Eaters, Lord Voldemort’s old cronies, feels like it’s gone plaid, it rushes by
so fast. Needless to say, the film assumes a total familiarity with Potter’s
world, and barely bothers to remind us where things left off.

probably for the best – most of us do know the story, after all – but that
rushed pace will do more harm than good as Goblet progresses. The
introduction of two other magic schools and the explanation of the Tri-Wizard
Tournament is perfunctory and sharp. As Harry is thrust into the three deadly
tasks that make up the tournament, the only solid footing is the cast’s comfort
and our own familiarity with Hogwarts.

Look at this image 24 times a second for three and a half hours to get Terrence Malick’s version of the film.

As the
tournament gets under way, things settle down somewhat, and we get to breathe. After
such a thin opening the film settles down to quite a strong middle act. The
strength of Rowlings’ later Potter books is her attention to growing pains, and
Harry, Hermione and Ron get to live out everyone’s fantasy: experiencing
puberty onscreen.

So while
there’s the requisite handful of action setpieces, the best bits of the film
are small scenes between the kids. That’s as it should be, since that’s where
Rowling’s books excel, as well.

So Harry
and Ron’s troubles are more entertaining than most action in the series, and the looming specter of the school dance
proves more frightening than a horntail dragon. While Mike Newell isn’t always
adept at stringing together the broad story points, he’s great at getting the
painful little moments just right. The dance’s climax, in which Hogwarts’ main
staircase is littered with girls crying over shattered romantic fantasies, is
more pointed than almost anything else in the film.

Their eyes follow me everywhere. Help.

humor also points towards the series’ ever more adult tone. Harry’s bathhouse
encounter with the watery ghost Myrtle is blatantly suggestive, and the
students’ first classroom encounter with new teacher Mad Eye Moody is sickly
comical before it turns outright dire. Newell manages that switch with barely
any effort; if only he was better at lining up the opening and closing
sequences. It’s ironic that the film really fires up when the action dies down.

nothing else, the effects are occasionally phenomenal. Voldemort’s rebirth and
subsequent makeup job are great, and Harry’s dragon nemesis in the tourney’s
first round is phenomenal. Twenty years ago this lizard would have been given
his own movie. Today he’s barely the first course.

I was going to make a Robocop joke, but then I noticed his dead rodent penis.

effects aren’t uniformly great; the wax dummies floating underwater are overdue
at Madame Tussaud’s, and Harry’s showoff backflip after diving in to the lake
is also a bit dodgy. For the most part, however, the movie shows the effects
team working in high gear.

What surprised me is that Rupert Grint, as Ron, has turned into perhaps the best actor of the three leads. While Emma Watson is mercurial and
enthusiastic as Hermione, Grint turns in the most shyly detailed performance
and easily walks away with his scenes. Daniel Radcliffe continues to improve,
especially through scenes between Ron and Harry, but still tends to play the
uncertain side too heavily. It’s easy to do, given the character, but I’d like to see him display a bit less uncertainty.

This isn’t so much a screencap as a warning to anyone thinking of paying to see Ultraviolet.

Brendan Gleeson
knocks Moody out of the park with a turn that seems too broad at first, but
ends up being full of fine detail and looks that just barely register. For a
guy playing through a gigantic mechanical eye, he drops some very cool little
glances. Defense Against the Dark Arts may amount to the series’ villain of the
week slot, but Gleesan dominates in it.

And though
he doesn’t get any top line billing, it would be a crime at this point to avoid
mentioning Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort. The character has been such a shoadow
during the storyline that he could easily have been a great failure on screen. I’ll
admit I thought of Fienne’s Red Dragon appearance at first (his makeup makes it
hard not to) but in the span of a single scene, he owns Voldemort, ingesting
the legend of a dark lord and spitting out a full-fledged character who seems
every bit as dangerous as we’ve been led to believe.

Watch for the deleted scene where Egon tells them about the twinkie.

having read the fifth and sixth books, this comes across as Potter’s Empire
Strikes Back
. I begins in the middle and ends there, introducing far more
threads than it ties up. Ron’s brothers Fred and George are given a lot more
room to run (presumably in preparation for a larger role to come) and Voldemort’s
appearance is little more than a very dangerous tease.

probably feel even more dangerous if the movie didn’t rush off into a
pathetically soft conclusion moments after Harry returns to Hogwarts. But
that’s the nature of the films, I suppose – work the heavy stuff into the
middle and leave the end relatively shiny so the kids go home happy. Hopefully
Warner Brothers won’t stick too tightly to that approach, since it’ll be more
and more difficult to get away with as the next chapters roll out.

out of 10

The Look

this is a top-shelf release from Warners, who have become quite good at
transferring film to DVD, you’d expect something more pristine than this. It
doesn’t look like Karl Malden blew all six miles of his nose with it, but the
dark bits are too dark and the very foggy last section of the tournament isn’t
quite as detailed and smooth as on film. Even so, the movie’s climactic wand
battle is ace.

out of 10

The Noise

Big, like
it’s meant for a theatre with speakers that have to be tallied in scientific
notation. It’s not bad for all that, though more than once a good line of
dialogue sailed by under the audible radar. Turn it up, and you’ll hear all the
throw-away lines and every flap of dragon wing.

out of 10


Brothers knows that kids move the Potter discs, and the special features show
it. There’s no commentary, but you will find several crappy DVD games built
into the passable featurettes covering the effects of all three parts of the
Tri-Wizard Tournament.

selection of deleted scenes is mostly inconsequential, though I did get a kick
out of seeing an uncut song performed by the rock band at the dance. It’s
Jarvis Cocker (from Pulp) and two guys from Radiohead, which I still find
incredibly funny. It’s not, I know, but leave me something to hold on to,
please. The deleted bits are presented without any explanation or context,
which reduces their impact further.

That’s one flaccid lightsaber.

all of the small features, and especially in the half-hour Conversations
with the Cast
, there’s a lot of on-set EPK-style dialogue here, most of
which isn’t anything noteworthy. Of all the pieces, I actually got the most out
of Reflections on the Fourth Film, which cuts footage of the cast as
they were when first hired together with conversations with newer members about
how they fit into an established troupe. There’s some detail of the daily
routine (act, study, fuck around) and Dave Davis will probably get turned on by
the fact that Emma Watson is apparently hot shit at Prince of Persia. I
don’t expect anything particularly heavy from a Potter DVD, but after being
spoiled by the LoTR discs, I’m still always a bit disappointed that
Warners doesn’t do more.

out of 10


aside the fact that a set of all four films won’t line up properly on the
shelf, this is a suitable presentation for the film. The silvery cover and
slipcase nicely reflect the original poster art, and don’t feature the faces of
the actors any more than they need to. In the case of a hard-sell disc aimed at
family buyers, that’s about all we can ask for.

out of 10

7.5 out of 10