Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 0.0 stars

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Or for short, Pot III. It has a new director — Alfonso Cuarón, of A Little Princess and, less pertinently, Y Tu Mamá También — and a new Dumbledore — Michael Gambon, in place of the late Richard Harris — in addition to new roles for the likes of Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Emma Thompson, and Julie Christie, thus closing in rapidly on the apparent goal to employ every name actor now alive in the British Isles. None of this makes much difference, or at least not the sort of difference to lighten the eyelids. It's not as if Cuarón, even had he felt so inclined, could put his foot down and stem the tide of fulsome special effects, or crack the whip and bring in the elephantine kiddie film at under two hours. (It may be — if you care to go back to the earlier installments to check — that he has leeched out more of the color and has added a percentage of form-stretching wide-angle shots.) He can only go along for the ride. And what a long ride it is. Story interest, even with all that time on his hands, is minimal: Harry, now fully into adolescence (what is it he's getting up to in his bedroom under the sheets with his wand?), seems to be the target of a wizardly escaped convict called Sirius Black, who does not turn up till the hour-and-a-half mark. Werewolves play a major role (Prof. Lupin's name rather gives him away), and there's a mythical equine bird or avian horse known as a hippogriff, as well as a flying flock of faceless soul-suckers called Dementors. The whole sticky mess is only partially cleaned up through the expedient of two-places-at-once time travel. Now if only the Patronus Charm — those magic words to expel objects of dread — could have been hurled at the screen itself! With Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, and Robbie Coltrane.

Duncan Shepherd

Length: 2 hours, 19 minutes

Rated: PG

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