Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
By Nell Minow,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Action- and creature-packed Potter sequel.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Friendship, love, bravery, and loyalty are always major themes in the series, as is the idea of making good choices.
Positive Role Models
Harry and his friends are loyal to each other and demonstrate perseverance, teamwork, and courage. A charismatically dishonest teacher gets his comeuppance.
As Harry's booksmart friend, Hermione demonstrates her cleverness by solving one of the film's key mysteries. Ron's younger sister, Ginny, plays a larger role in this installment, though she requires rescuing. Characters of color, including Harry's fellow Gryffindors Dean Thomas and Lee Jordan (both Black) remain in background. The narrative further explores the issue of class through Lucius Malfoy's mistreatment of his house elf, Dobby. Unfortunately, mirroring its source material, the movie continues to play into fat-phobic stereotypes, depicting villains such as Harry's Uncle Vernon and cousin Dudley as gluttonous and cruel.
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Violence & Scariness
Kids are in peril often, but at the hand of fantasy creatures most of the time: giant spiders attack, and a basilisk (giant serpent) has Medusa-like abilities, nearly killing characters and putting them in a rigid, comatose state -- it chases Harry in a really tense scene. Harry falls from his broom and breaks his arm, and then bones in his arm are magically removed. A house elf punishes himself by hitting his head repeatedly. In a practice wizards' duel, students and teachers are thrown to the ground and a (small) snake threatens a student. A spell backfires and Ron coughs up slugs. Harry almost falls out of a flying car. Two main characters almost die in the film's climax.
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Hermione is called a "mudblood" by Draco, an offensive term in the Potter world meaning "dirty blood."
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Products & Purchases
While the candy mentioned wasn't originally real, it is now: Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Jelly Slugs, and more. And then there are the action figures, Lego play sets, wands, Band-Aid bandages ... you name it.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is scarier than the first film in the Harry Potter series (all based on the books by J.K. Rowling), and characters spend lots of time in extreme peril. There are frightening creatures, including hordes 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 heroes are ultimately fine. But children who aren't already familiar with the story may be upset. There are also some gross-out moments when Ron's spell backfires and he spits up slugs, and when another misapplied spell leaves Harry without any bones in his forearm. Characters demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork. In addition, friendship, love, bravery, and loyalty are always major themes in the series, as is the idea of making good choices.
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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Based on 58 parent reviews
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Will give kids nightmares
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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 Quidditch matches keep the story moving as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and friends soar through their second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As this installment begins, Harry gets a visit at the Dursleys' from a house elf named Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones), who warns Harry 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 is the only one who can hear a strange voice echoing through the halls, and he's in the wrong place at the wrong time when some very bad and scary things happen. It seems that Hogwarts has a Chamber of Secrets that hasn't 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 whether they're right. The two adults Harry trusts most, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Dumbledore (Richard Harris), 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 and utterly satisfying experience. That applies both to those looking for a meticulous realization of the beloved book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and those who watch the film 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 Lockhart. There are also some magnificent cast additions, especially Jason Isaacs, coolly cruel as Lucius Malfoy, the father of Harry's foe, Draco (Tom Felton).
Every frame of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is filled with wonder, especially Diagon Alley and the moving photos and portraits. There's a wealth of detail and delight to entrance viewers -- so much that they'll likely 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 from his first year?
What traits are helping Harry become a hero figure? Why must he face his 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?
How do the characters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets demonstrate teamwork, perseverance, and courage? Why are these important character strengths?
- 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
- Last updated: June 1, 2023
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