I'm talking about the Nerds.
There was the group of teenagers in home-made Tee-Shirts emblazoned with such cleverly ironic phrases as "I Heart HP", "Body by Hagrid" and "R.I.P. Dumb-ledore!" (the fact that they took up the entire back row laughing the laughs one might make when an ice cold soda can is applied to the nape of the neck and deeply discussing all things J.K. Rowling with an encyclopedic knowledge pretty well destroyed the concept of these shirts being "ironic"). Then there was the separate kid in an incredibly similar home made shirt that the first group of nerds made fun of because... he was about twelve months younger than they were. There was the gaggle of overweight women with feminine men discussing why they decided not to dress up this time around, while the men danced for each other poorly and stiffly, but with a confidence that the cast of RENT would envy! Following them was a clan who had actually dressed up in combinations of the top hats their dads had gotten married in, the bathrobes they had borrowed from their uncles and the colorful scarves they hadn't yet sent to their big brothers up at Michigan State. A group of wannabe "GOTH" kids engaged in a detailed discussion on the "Choices" that old Voldemort made that led him to be unloved (while one of the "ladies" pointed out that Match.com could find even him a date). And, as in all "Fandom Film" screenings, there was the old lady with the dyed black hair, the cane with the plastic dragon hot-glued to the top, a costume jewelry amulet and the entourage of twentysomethings whose tickets she purchased. Collectively they began a high-pitched competition in the theatre to see which preview would get the most cheering and comments. In case you're wondering, it was The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, followed by Superman Returns. Tied for third place: the new Shyamalan flick, and King Kong!
But after the opening title card swooped toward us like a callously thrown Frisbee, a hush fell over the crowd as they took in every detail and mentally compared each moment to the book they had read more times than they had the text of a STOP sign. The Goblet of Fire is indeed a pretty good movie, filled with thrills, a few chills, incredible special effects and decent acting (though the best actors in this film get some of the least lines). Personally, I enjoyed it a great deal, however, it was clear that (whether you've read the book this is based on or not) there must be great things missing in page-shaped chunks from an already overlong film. Director Mike Newell and screenwriter Steven Kloves do their best to pack in as much of J.K. Rowling's bestseller into two and a half hours as they can (which, as a literary purist, I find very satisfying). However, it's impossible not to note that, as with the other Harry Potter flicks, what survives to the screen is a mere montage of novel moments culled from a checklist version of the book. The good news is that what did make it to the screen is a treat for the eyes, surrounding a very cool story, but each facet of the tale isn't necessarily connected to every counterpart. The resulting film is a barrel load of occasionally excellent, occasionally incoherent scenes that guide the audience to a shaky ending.
The tale begins at the start of yet another Hogwarts school year, and the Weasley family brings old Ron (Grint), Hermione (Watson), Harry (Radcliffe) and newbie Cedric "The Entertainer" Diggory (Robert Pattinson) to the mother of all Magical Sporting events (I'll give you a hint, broomsticks and snitches are involved). Soon after, a group of Republicans dressed like The Rolling Stones from the album cover of "Satanic" show up to poop the party, thus setting in motion the plot of the story like supercharged monorail.
From there, we're given a school year wrapped around Harry's nightmares (a lot like Freddy's Nightmares, but not as easily canceled), yet another bid by Lord Voldemort to gain a foothold in the real world to give it the spanky it so richly deserves, a multinational magic competition known as the "Triwizard Tournament" and Hormones that fly around every scene like Quiddich players on Fast Forward. There's more pubescent sexual curiosity in just one randomly chosen scene than in the entire Brittany Spears Music Video DVD Collection. Even the ghosts are looking for a pretty-peek, man!
However disconnected many of the sequences feel from each other, the story itself is hardly predictable and has it fare share of surprises and triumphant Fantasy-oriented hollers and hoots for young and old, and for cool and nerd alike. What's more, there are some legitimate frights, especially surrounding the demonic and delicious performance of Fiennes as Lord "Chuckles" Voldemort. Even though anyone who has seen or read any episode in the Potter-Saga can pretty well predict what the ending is going to smell like, the unraveling of the mystery is fun to watch un-spool, card by card, even if those cards occasionally seem randomly shuffled onto the screen.
On one hand this is a film made truly for the fans. Filled to the Rim with too much plot, the missing piece is exposition. The audience is expected to know the characters well already, and of course, we all do, however, even the new characters are given as much development as an overexposed roll of film, and come off tissue-thin. Further, the all-star supporting cast (with the possible exceptions of Oldman's Sirius Black and Gambon's Dumbledore) are a collective cameo that provide the comfortable backdrop the film requires, without adding terribly much to the plot itself. I will say that with each subsequent entry, Grint, Radcliffe and Watson get better and more in tune with their maturing characters. With any luck, in thirty more years they'll be the Cameo Backdrop to some other kid's fantasy movie franchise. It worked for old Alec Guinness, didn't it?
On another hand, a film so deeply for the fans still comes off as missing a lot of vital jigsaws, making the knowledgeable mad and the uninitiated confused. Could they possibly have put all of Rowling's novel into this film? Not in five hours of screen time. Cuts happen, but linkage is still a nice thing to have.
On the whole, this flick is a winner, especially with the complimentary (and necessary), but never quite overpowering special effects of Industrial Light and Magic, amonst others. A sequence featuring a Dragon clawing its way along the side of a Hogwarts Spire, cracking walls and spreading shingles like snowflakes is especially breathtaking to witness. Happily the SFX are never a crutch to prop up a weak story, and what we do see makes for a great fantasy flick fully worth Four Stars out of Five.
Sometimes you're unforgivably cursed three times if you do and unforgivably cursed three times if you don't. Stuff as much as possible into a movie and it feels like it's trying too hard. Don't put enough in and the fans show up at your door with torches, pitchforks and reams of Fan Fiction to show you how it's done. Sigh. One thing I'd love to see answered is how the funk it is that although everyone considers "The Boy Who Lived" a quasi-messiah, he's still having to deal with teasing, insults and challenges from enemies within the same group that holds his very concept above the acts of eating, drinking and breathing. While we're at it... if we keep finding that Slytherin is filled with evil kids who go on to be Death Eaters and Dark Lords, then why the funnel cake don't they just expel the lot of them and be done with the Sith Recruiting Service that it is! If everyone at Hogwarts has a Broom, why does it look so dismally dingy? Clearly such questions have successfully placed me into the gigglin' geek section that I so desperately hoped never to find myself in. If you'll excuse me, I have to go make a T-Shirt that says "Call me when you're Legal, Hermione!", put on my felt derby, a brown bathrobe and fabricate a dragon cane and some plastic jewelry to wear as I stiffly do "the Hustle" and dream of whom to set old Tom Riddle up with for the Prom. So, until the final film, tentatively called Harry Potter and the Return of the Anchorman, "You stay Classy, Hogwarts! I'm Ron Weasleyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?"