His name alone sends a chill down the spine. His fans are some of the most rabid this world has ever seen. His green eyes are piercing and his black hair is unruly. He’s Harry Potter and, like Voldemort in the wizarding world, he’s invading homes across America.
With the release of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” on DVD, America’s favorite little magician has proven he’s not so little anymore. Not only have the actors grown, but so has the overall product. The third movie iteration of the extremely popular book series displays a daring disregard for the sometimes-stifling reliance on J.K. Rowling’s text that was present in the previous two outings. The sweeping camera and slightly darker tone, along with vastly improved acting from Daniel Radcliffe (Potter) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), lends a level of sophistication to the film not yet seen in the series.
The DVD also ups the ante, presenting the viewer with a variety of fun distractions that add to the overall quality of the film. Surprisingly, the navigational menu for the special features is one of the best parts of the set, as it is done up like the Marauder’s Map — a magical map of the Hogwarts grounds that reveals the location of every person in the area. Hours could easily be wasted watching the parchment fold and open on-screen as new areas and levels of the special features disc are discovered.
If there’s one gripe that could be leveled at the set, it is the seemingly paltry selection of deleted scenes. Fans may be slightly disappointed to learn that the “exclusive never-before-seen footage” simply amounts to a couple of lengthened already-seen-in-theaters scenes and one or two minutes of legitimate exclusives. What’s there is fun to watch, but it would have been nice to see a whole variety of extra footage, maybe even a couple extra minutes of Quiditch — which was sorely underrepresented in the other-wise amazing film.
All in all, however, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” makes for a tasty holiday treat. It’s a great gift for the kids, the parents, or the weird roommate with the vibrating Harry Potter broomstick hidden under his bed.
Film: 4.5/5 stars
Picture/Sound: 4/5 stars
Features: 2.5/5 stars