Marriage is not the end of the world.
This is less of a Pixar movie distributed by Disney than it is a Disney movie with animation by Pixar. The sumptuous visual experience we expect from a Pixar movie is more than up to our expectations, but as a story, Brave trods the familiar ground of more traditional Disney animation rather than the uncharted territories of WALL-E, Up, or The Incredibles. Unlike previous Pixar efforts, this is one for the kids and not as entertaining for the grown-ups in the room.
The bloom of whimsy is off the Hogwarts rose as things get all dark and serious. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has several problems to contend with. Dementors are chasing him. The Ministry of Wizards wants him expelled. Hogwarts has been taken over by Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a perky Torquemada in lavender. Hermione (Emma Watson) is now taller than him and Lord Valdemort is raising an army again.
Probably by design, this Potter movie lacks some of the charm of the previous films, as its themes and situation are considerably darker and more threatening. Harry seems to spend most of the story out of step with the rest of the cast and Radcliffe is up to the task of making us feel his vulnerability and isolation.
This chapter hasn’t been as well reviewed by others as the previous ones, although it is definitely superior to the first two. I think the lukewarm reception comes from those unfamiliar with the Potter mythos and not expecting the darker turns in the story, as well as those who have memorized the books and take umbrage with the filmmakers daring to condense the story down to a manageable cinematic length. Given the number of balls that author J. K. Rowling has given director David Yates to keep in the air, he’s done about as good a job as anyone could have in bringing the story to the screen.
The Harry Potter films have been, on the whole, getting progressively better with each installment. The first step was ditching the more commercially-minded American director Chris Columbus in favor of two filmmakers whose work you would not normally associate with these fantastic elements. For this fourth chapter, they chose British director Mike Newell, probably best known for the violent mob drama Donnie Brasco.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (hereafter called Azkaban) is the first Harry Potter film not directed by Home Alone helmer Chris Columbus. This time out Alfonso Cuarón called the shots, fresh off the beyond-R-Rated Y tu mamá también. He may seem like an odd choice to film a “veddy-British” and family-friendly PG-rated movie like this, until you recall that he also helmed the G-Rated A Little Princess.
Azkaban clearly has a much differently sensibility from the warmer, more friendly tone of the first two HP films. There is a more foreboding tone that suggest that Cuarón had a better handle on the darker elements of J.K. Rowling’s novels.