STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And here's the latest on Hollywood's big-budget filmmaking. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION critic Kenneth Turan reviews "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

KENNETH TURAN reporting:

It's taken them long enough, but the movies have finally gotten "Harry Potter" right. Never mind that the series' three previous attempts have earned a reported $2.7 billion worldwide. It's not until "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" that a film has recreated the sense of magical adventure that has made the series such an international phenomenon.

(Soundbite of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire")

Unidentified Man: The rules are absolute. The Goblet of Fire constitutes a binding magical contract. Mr. Potter has no choice. He is, as of tonight, a Triwizard champion.

TURAN: After directors Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuaron have taken their turns, it's fallen to the veteran Mike Newell to make the first Harry Potter film to be wire-to-wire satisfying. Newell was, in his own words, `anxious to break out of its goody-two-shoes feel,' and he definitely has. Newell is no lofty auteur. He's an impeccable craftsman with four decades of cinematic experience. He's a canny veteran who's given the best of his films, from the chilling "Dance with a Stranger" to the comic "Four Weddings and a Funeral," exactly what they need from a practical point of view.

The first element Newell added to the mix is a welcome sense of ownership of the book's setting. The filmmaker was a public schoolboy himself and as the series' first British director, he displays a comfort level with the world of Hogwarts that comes with knowing it in his bones. Newell also works well with the film's debuting British actors. These include a convincing Ralph Fiennes as the dread Lord Voldemort and a comic Miranda Richardson as weasly journalist Rita Skeeter. Best of all, Brendan Gleeson is irrepressible as "Mad Eye" Moody, the latest in Hogwarts' eccentric series of Defense Against the Dark Arts instructors.

(Soundbite of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire")

Mr. BRENDAN GLEESON: (As Alastor "Mad Eye" Moody): Which of you can tell me how many unforgivable curses there are?

Unidentified Student: Three, sir.

Mr. GLEESON: (As Moody) And they're so named?

Unidentified Student: Because they are unforgivable. To use any one of them will...

Mr. GLEESON: Earn you a one-way ticket to Azkaban. Correct. Now the ministry says you're too young to see what these curses do. I say different!

TURAN: The presence of Voldemort in the creepy-crawly flesh signals that this is the first Potter movie to have a PG-13 rating for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images. Fortunately, "Goblet" is not an R-rated movie trying to pass as something tamer, but a genuine PG-13, pleasantly shivery but in no way savage or sadistic.

Newell also proves to be adept at bringing a feeling of page-turning propulsion to a plot that has more danger than the usual Potter narrative. Factor in special effects that are really special, and you'll find yourself agreeing with Harry when he says, `I love magic.' That, finally, is what the books that bear his name are all about.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews films for the Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" opens today.

(Credits)

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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