Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Wizard special effects, but the fourth installment won’t set your world on fire.
If you haven’t jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon yet, this is not the time to start – unless you plan on reading the books first. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth in the series, is a transitory film, one in the middle, where significant things happen, but only in terms of the bigger Potter picture. And it suffers from trying to condense a 700-plus page book into 157 minutes.
Let’s face it, this is no “Lord of the Rings.” Although it canvasses many of the themes of that epic – the hero’s internal struggle between ego and moral duty while shouldering a burden forced on him, the corrupting forces of darkness, the importance of friendship – this film lacks LOTR’s finesse and complexity. But director Mike Newell (at the Potter helm for the first time) puts to good use the latest CGI technology, with Harry watching the Quidditch World Cup in a truly spectacular stadium, a flying-horse-drawn carriage and some magnificent sweeping landscape shots.
This film is darker than the first three, with a scary final 20 minutes that will have young fans cowering behind their seats. The non-stop action centers around the Triwizard Tournament between three schools, with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) mysteriously becoming a fourth contender. The champions take on dragons, mer-people and a bewitched maze in which lurks the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), who reappears in frightening fashion.
But the problems of streamlining the story mean that many characters – including those rotten Dursleys – don’t appear, and it loses some of the cute details that made the first films so appealing. The much-hyped love story is also overrated: With the onset of puberty, Harry shows interest in fellow student Cho Chang (newcomer Katie Leung), but the storyline goes nowhere. The real teen angst lies between the irritating Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), who has a seriously dodgy haircut.
Diehards will be queuing up, but if you’ve lived in ignorance about Quidditch, Albus Dumbledore and Hogwarts, then you might feel this film is smoke without fire.
Best Bit: When Harry faces his toughest challenge – finding a date for the ball.