Poor Harry Potter. In his latest adventure he faces fire-breathing dragons, an hour-long underwater swim and a maze that rises up to claim those who walk in it. And then it gets worse: He has to get a date for the Yule Ball.
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is in theaters.
In "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Harry moves headlong into adolescence. Now in his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry gets selected to compete in the Triwizard Cup, but his selection is not without controversy.
In this competition with other wizards' schools—Drumstrang of Eastern Europe and the French girls' school known as Beauxbaton—only 17-year-olds get to compete. Harry is a mere 14, but someone places his name in the Goblet of Fire, and the goblet declares him to be a participant.
This causes stress between Harry and Ron Weasley, Harry's best friend. Ron believes Harry cheated to get into the competition, and Ron isn't alone. Most of the Hogwarts students feel Harry is trying to upstage their legitimate representative, Cedric Diggory.
Add to this the re-appearance of the Death Eaters, the followers of Lord Voldemort. Their re-emergence is a harbinger of the return of Voldemort, the dark wizard who murdered Harry's parents. Harry, too, is aware of Voldemort's coming, having disturbing dreams where he sees Voldemort and his followers plotting the return of the evil one.
As with all the Harry Potter movies and books, the students are assigned a new "Defense Against the Dark Arts" professor. This year they are treated to "Mad Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson), so named because his left eye rolls round without seeming control. But in fact, this eye has the ability to see in ways a normal eye cannot; Moody can zoom in and see from great distances.
He's also not afraid to do what he thinks best—even changing Malfoy into a ferret when Malfoy acts as the bully he always is. This act is against school rules, but Moody obviously doesn't follow the rules.
As Harry and the other competitors for the Triwizard Cup go through their paces, we get closer and closer to the revelation of Voldemort. We have not seen a full manifestation of the dark wizard in the other films, and we learn much of the connection between Harry and this personification of evil.
For the volume of information given about the series and where it is going, "Goblet" is the most satisfying of the four adaptations thus far. The filmmakers reveal secrets that help the viewer understand more of this universe that J. K. Rowling created. And with each film come more unique characters that make the stories more engrossing.
A word must be said about the concerns raised by Harry Potter. Many declare that because there is magic at the heart of this universe, with spells and the like, that Harry Potter is a bad example to young people.
In watching the films, it is hard to condemn the stories as being evil. Harry demonstrates more virtues than are found in William Bennett's book. Harry shows a self-giving nature that is seldom seen in this age of "me first."
To stand off and condemn a character as caring as Harry Potter is to miss wonderful opportunities to discuss with a child what it means to put others before self. In this film, Harry again demonstrates the kind of character that any parent would want from his or her child.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images. Reviewer's Note: It is the first in the series to be given this rating. It has scenes that will scare younger children and is not for those under the age of nine.
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Steven Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling)
Cast: Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe; Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint; Hermione Granger: Emma Watson; Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon; Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody: Brendan Gleeson; Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane.
The movie's official Web site is here.