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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is scarier than the first film in the series and characters spend a lot of time in extreme peril. There are frightening creatures, including lots of big spiders and an enormous snake that can kill anyone who looks in its eyes. Though it appears that some characters have been hurt or killed, all the good guys are ultimately fine. Children who are not familiar with the story, however, may be upset. There are also some gross moments when Ron's spell backfires and he spits up slugs, and when another misapplied spell leaves Harry without any bones in his forearm. Friendship, love, bravery, and loyalty are always major themes in the series. So is the idea of making good choices.
What's the story?
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS is more pure magic for young Potter fans who like adventure over the darker themes in the series. Flying cars, giant spiders and snakes, and faster and larger-than-life Quiddich matches keep the story moving as Harry and friends soar through their second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As this episode begins, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) gets a visit at the Dursley's from an odd little house elf named Dobby, who warns him that someone is trying to harm him. After a hair-raising trip with Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry arrives at Hogwarts where there are new classes, new challenges, and a somewhat suspicious, extremely narcissistic new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh). Harry's nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), is now his opponent on the Quidditch field. Harry is the only one who can hear a strange voice echoing through the halls. And he is in the wrong place at the wrong time when some very bad and scary things happen. It seems that there is a Chamber of Secrets that has not been opened for 50 years. Somewhere in that chamber is a dangerous creature just waiting for the right person to let it out. Many people suspect that Harry is that person, and he wonders if they are right. The two adults Harry trusts most, Hagrid and Dumbledore, are removed from the school, and if someone doesn't stop the creature, Hogwarts may be closed for good. As always, it will take Hermione (Emma Watson)'s research skills, Ron's courage, and Harry's heart to save the day.
Is it any good?
Kids will find this chapter a thrilling, eye-filling, and utterly satisfying experience. That applies both to those looking for a meticulous realization of a beloved book and those who come to the theater knowing only the first movie -- or even those with no knowledge of Harry Potter at all. The child actors are growing up and they seem more comfortable in their roles here, bringing more depth and subtlety to their acting, and Branagh is wildly funny as the new Hogwarts professor. And there are some magnificent cast additions, especially Jason Isaacs, coolly cruel as Lucius Malfoy, father of Harry's foe Draco.
Every frame of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is filled with wonder, especially Diagon Alley and the moving photos and portraits. There is a wealth of detail and delight to entrance viewers so much that they will leave wanting more, even after a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about year two at Hogwarts and what Harry learns about himself in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. How is it different than his first year?
What traits are helping Harry become a hero figure? Why must he face is enemy alone?
What do we find out about Tom Riddle and his diary later in the series that make them so important?
How does this movie compare to the book it is based on? What makes a good adaptation? Were there parts in the book that weren't in the movie that should have been?
- In theaters: November 15, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: April 11, 2003
- Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 161 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: scary moments, some creature violence and mild language
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