The hotly anticipated sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone didn't disappoint the millions of fans who eagerly awaited its release. Even more imaginative and elaborate than its predecessor, Chamber of Secrets abounds in magic, mystery, and adventure. Chamber now comes to DVD in a deluxe two-disc edition that teems with special features, and the film itself has been beautifully transferred to the digital medium. As the story begins, young wizard-in-training Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) embarks on his second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with his loyal friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). But something's not quite right: Harry constantly hears a mysterious voice that warns him of impending danger, and while investigating a series of attacks bedeviling Hogwarts he uncovers a sinister, dangerous secret. Kenneth Branagh is a colorful addition to the Hogwarts faculty, and his blustery, egotistical instructor fits right in along with Harry veterans Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, and Alan Rickman. Although they've tried to keep Chamber of Secrets lighthearted with a full quota of humorous episodes, director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steven Kloves have actually made this sequel a darker, more grimly suspenseful tale. Very young fans should watch the film with their parents, as its vivid depiction of fanciful monsters and perilous combat makes for an occasionally intense viewing experience. Watching the DVD edition could easily be an all-day affair: The film is accompanied by no fewer than 19 deleted or extended scenes, conversations with cast and crew members, interviews of Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling and screenwriter Steven Kloves, and a wide variety of interactive special features that include self-guided tours of the Chamber of Secrets itself, Dumbledore's office, and Diagon Alley. There are also some 15 animated puzzles, sliders, and screen savers to be accessed. All told, these two discs will provide families with countless hours of entertainment.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is more enjoyable and better made than its predecessor. Paced well and effectively balancing thrills and laughs, Chamber feels much shorter than its intimidating 161 minute running time. The plot is occasionally fuzzy -- reasons are left unclear as to why the bad guys have to go through the complicated plan that they do, but complaining about that is the equivalent of quibbling with a Bond villain. Hogwarts looks more like a real place and less like a movie set this time around. The characters and sets have a familiarity that helps make this film feel more natural than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The actors acquit themselves well, although only Kenneth Branagh as the vain, egotistical Gilderoy Lockhart truly shines. Branagh is obviously spoofing himself, and his joy is infectious. Although the film delivers the goods, disappointing neither fans of the books nor admirers of the first film, there is a certain restrictive feeling about the film that is hard to place. That Chris Columbus so closely follows the books seems to be a big reason why the series has succeeded (financially) as much as it has. However, there is an inevitability that disappoints ever so slightly. One has difficulty sensing much individuality in the film. Chamber of Secrets feels like a mission accomplished more than an inspired piece of storytelling, but it is a worthy mission and it is accomplished with skill.
Brimming with invention and new ideas, and its Hogwarts School seems to expand and deepen before our very eyes into a world large enough to conceal unguessable secrets -- What a glorious movie.
Darker and more dramatic, this account of Harry's troubled second year at Hogwarts may be a bit overlong and unmodulated in pacing, but it possesses a confidence and intermittent flair that begin to give it a life of its own apart of the literary franchise, something the initial picture never achieved.