Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

Serpents, spiders and a decent script add up to a spellbinding sequel

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It’s Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, and someone’s foolishly opened up the long-hidden Chamber of Secrets?which is bad news for any of the student wizards who come from ordinary human backgrounds, as it’s only a matter of time before one of them gets killed. While Harry’s allies Dumbledore (Richard Harris) and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) are forced to leave the school, some of the new faces on hand are a lot less comforting: Draco Malfoy’s evil father Lucius (Jason Isaacs in full-on panto villain mode) and the narcissistic new Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart (a wonderfully vain Kenneth Branagh).

There’s a lot less time wasted on exposition, the child actors are mercifully less precious than previously, and the likes of Julie Walters and Alan Rickman get more to do. Plus there’s a flying Ford Anglia, a whole forest full of giant spiders, a self-combusting phoenix, a huge serpentine dragon for Harry to slay and, of course, a hankie-waving farewell to Richard Harris. All in all, it’s darker, deeper, funnier and scarier than last time?just like magic ought to be.

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