The fourth installment in the Harry Potter series, “The Goblet of Fire,” once again follows the adventure of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint).
Fans of the Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling and of the previous movies will remember that Potter is a young wizard who attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
In the “Goblet of Fire,” directed by Mike Wallace, Potter is attending his fourth year at Hogwarts. As in the previous three movies, Harry is faced with an array of difficulties and dangers, both the magical and ordinary kind.
This year, Hogwarts hosts the Triwizard Tournament, a magical competition between the three wizard schools. Students from Beauxbatons, the seemingly French, all-girls school, and Durmstrang, which judging by the Cossack-like garb of the students is located somewhere in Russia, travel to Hogwarts to compete in the Tournament.
A sinister mishap involving the Goblet of Fire, a magical object that selects the single champion to represent each school, causes Harry to be selected as the second Hogwarts champion alongside Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson).
To win the Triwizard Tournament and claim the coveted Triwizard Cup, the champions must battle dragons, swim to the bottom of an enchanted lake and find their way through a maze whose walls apparently take an active dislike to people walking through them. The dangers are a little more intense in this movie and the subject matter more serious, involving torture and murder. This darker side to the movie earned it a PG-13 rating, a step higher than the previous movies, but still mild enough for kids.
Yet it is not all danger and distress at the Triwizard Tournament. The Yule Ball traditionally is held during the tournament and it is here that our heroes face the more prosaic challenges associated with modern teenagers.
Potter and company are turning 14 years old and as such have begun to notice members of the opposite sex.
Potter in particular is smitten with the lovely Cho Chang (Katie Leung), although asking a pretty girl out to a dance is a daunting task for any teenager, wizard or otherwise. Ron and Hermione also manage to get themselves entangled in relationships, although their constant bickering only reinforces our impression that one day they will find themselves happily married to each other.
The personal conflicts and relationships have taken a much more prominent role in this film compared to the previous ones.
We see Ron and Harry having their first real argument (or as the British like to say, spat) and of course Ron and Hermione are arguing in one form or another throughout the movie.
We get to see more of the chaos-loving Weasley twins, Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) and even some minor characters like Neville Longbottom (Matt Lewis) take their turn in the sun.
To do this, the screenwriters have had to take some liberties with the original dialogue from the books. The first three movies held very closely to the books, keeping much of the scenery and dialogue intact. “The Goblet of Fire” changes direction radically, rewriting large portions of the book.
This was necessary in part due to the sheer size of the book by Rowling.
The director assumes that you have either read the books, seen the previous movies or have a knowledgeable friend who can whisper answers to your questions during the movie because few clues are given as to who these characters are and what their relationship is to each other, never mind what all this magic stuff is about.
This tactic is mostly successful, since it manages to condense the book into a movie that is short enough to sit through all the way without bathroom breaks. It succeeds marvelously in preserving the characters from the book despite the necessary rewrite.
Nevertheless, there is one significant casualty of the rewriting process, that of the character of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), headmaster of Hogwarts. The unflappable Dumbledore of the books and previous movies was portrayed as the calm at the eye of the storm, unperturbed by the turbulence around him.
The Goblet of Fire shows us a moody, mercurial and sometimes angry Dumbledore. No doubt Wallace wanted to show how the new challenges facing the characters placed a great deal of stress on everyone. However, something is lost by subtracting from the character of Dumbledore the very personality traits that made him unique.
Despite this minor flaw, The Goblet of Fire is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, one that will please the magical and not so magical members of your family alike.
Sean Paroski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.