Let's All Stop Crapping on Chris Columbus

Harry Potter Sorcerer's Stone
I mean, the man wrote The Goonies, for goodness' sake.  And Gremlins.  And he directed Adventures in Babysitting.  He deserves a little bit of a pass for those reasons alone.  I'm willing to overlook his involvement in Christmas With the Kranks, a low point for everyone involved and for the planet at large.
The reason everyone seems to be taking shots at Mr. Columbus lately is that the penultimate cinematic installment of the Harry Potter series is due to hit theaters in a few weeks (Yippee!) and the blogs are taking part in their favorite pre-Harry Potter movie pastime -- Ranking the Harry Potter films from best to worst.
Most people, myself included, feel that Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of the first six movies.  Maybe it's the cache of having director Alfonso Cuaron at the helm.  Maybe it's because the kids were finally starting to bring it to the waltz acting-wise.  Maybe it's because the films were finally starting to take on a darker, more grown-up tone.  Maybe it's because Prisoner of Azkaban is by far the best of the first three books and broke the "Harry fights some form of Voldemort" pattern.  It's probably a combination of all those things.  The movie, of course, is not perfect.  A lot of information from the book was left out (it kind of had to be or the movie would've been out-of-control long), and, jeepers, that CGI werewolf was just sad looking.

As far as the "worst" Harry Potter movies, most people hand that distinction to either of the first two movies, both directed by Chris Columbus.  Yes, they are kiddie.  Yes, there's not a lot of directorial bravado.  Chris Columbus was painting within the lines that JK Rowling drew for him, and I commend him for that.

He took on a huge task in bringing the first two books of this epic series to the big screen.  When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was released in 2001, only the first four books were in circulation.  Chris Columbus did a great job of establishing the world as it was written on the page, allowing the subsequent directors to take things in new, darker directions in the later films.
I, for one, love the lightness with which Chris Columbus directed the first two films.  He established a world that all of us Harry Potter-philes wanted to be a part of.  He showed us a place of bright colors and good, loyal friends and magical intrigue.  I am glad that we were able to spend a few hours in the candy colored world of Hogwarts before the hues became muted in the third movie and beyond.  The happy Hogwarts of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets is a place we want to return to, a place of innocence and hope.
Furthermore, I have to commend Mr. Columbus for doing something that David Yates (director of the final four Harry Potter movies) has proven time and again that he cannot.  Chris Columbus did a great job of directing the big moments in the first two movies, building suspense and making the resolutions satisfying.  (More on my Yates complaints in another post.)
Also, on a personal note, watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the first time inspired me to read the books.  And for that I will be forever grateful.

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  • Another bonus for Columbus - his eye for casting. He chose the perfect three actors to play Harry, Ron, and Hermione. For that alone, he deserves kudos.

    As for Christmas with the Kranks, Bicentennial Man, and I Love You Beth Cooper - crap away on him.

  • In reply to Hammer:

    I can't believe I overlooked the flaming pile of feces that is Bicentennial Man. I might have to retract this whole post.

  • In reply to Hammer:

    Hey, I LIKED Bicentennial Man. It was touching.

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