Director Chris Columbus – who inflicted Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone on the cinema-going public, but over a decade later should probably be finally forgiven for it – was the man burdened with the task of translating the most popular children’s book in recent history to the big screen.
Fans of trainee wizard Harry weren’t disappointed by Columbus’s lengthy (two and a half hours) but faithful adaptation of JK Rowling’s first book, of course, as the director wisely tried to pack as much of the story into the script with the help of a cast that’s a who’s who of British talent, including Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Fiona Shaw, John Cleese, John Hurt and Julie Walters.
As everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past few years knows, Harry (Radcliffe) is a young orphan who discovers he’s a wizard and is whisked off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he befriends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). The school is run by the wise Professor Dumbledore (Harris), one of the wizards who knows what happened to Harry’s parents and why the boy himself may be in danger.
The younger members of the cast may not be the greatest actors in the universe (though their skills have improved in the subsequent sequels), but they each have their own charms and fit nicely into their roles. Columbus, meanwhile, uses just the right amount of CGI effects to realise this magical world, from the detailed Quidditch match to Hogwarts itself.
Known, like the book, as Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone in the US (one assumes that ‘philosopher’ sounded too clever and not magical enough).
Is Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
There are a few scary bits and younger viewers may find characters such as Snape, and even Hagrid, unsettling.
The climactic scene in which Harry confronts Quirrell may also bother young children.