Goblet of Fire kicks off quickly, with the Quidditch World Cup celebrations interrupted by flame-throwing death-eaters, out to get our Potter. Then we’re onto the first contest, a vertiginous, edge of seat dragon chase – the best of the few action scenes in the movie. But, like Rowling’s doorstep-sized book, Goblet is as much about boys ‘n’ girls as it is about spells. And Brit director Mike Newell gets some good, knockabout fun from it as you’d expect from the helmer of Four Weddings & A Funeral. Rupert Grint steals almost every scene he’s in, as the hapless Ron, hopeless with girls and hacked off with Harry. Even know-all Hermione is letting her hair down. While it’s well done, the boy-girl stuff inevitably waters down what little sense of menace there is, which isn’t much. While Newell’s kept The Prisoner of Azkaban’s greyish tone, Goblet doesn’t have the same sinister edge. Which is a shame as the atmospheric opener, with Eric Sykes stumbling upon Voldemort’s plans, promises chills we don’t really get.
Newell’s hotter on the comedy - Harry uncomfortably shares a bath with flirty ghost Myrtle and Malfoy is dropped down his mate’s trousers, as a ferret. Miranda Richardson hams it brilliantly as the tabloid hack Rita Skeeter. Dr-Who-to-be David Tennant makes an impression as Voldemort’s henchman, and Brendan Gleeson gives an eye-catching turn as mad old Moody. Pity that Oxfordshire’s Emma Watson doesn’t have more to do as Hermione.
The special effects are okay, in an age when they should be brilliant. Newell, new to this sort of movie, makes a good fist of it. It takes a while to tell its tale though and the script lacks Rowling’s sinister sparkle.
Goblet of Fire will be big success and it’s certainly fun to watch. Like a sweet you think is hard-boiled, but turns out to have a soft centre, Goblet of Fire isn’t what you expect but is enjoyable anyway. Suck it and see.