I love Harry Potter--love him, love him, love him. Even though I'm not a big "fantasy" person (I didn't really like Lord of the Rings ---yes, I know that's sacrilege....), but I've been hooked on Harry ever since the first book came out. And as a fan of the books, I also tend to be a fan of the movies (although I'm still mad that Book 3 was gutted so on the big screen....and the location change! What's up with that?), and Goblet of Fire is definitely worthy of my recognition and respect. It's a good old-fashioned thriller, essentially, and I will say it takes the massive book and trims it down to it's thriller components, which makes for a quite brisk and goosebump-inducing ride.
This is not a movie for small children, unless they don't scare easily. I saw this movie with one of my best friends and she had her coat up around her eyes numerous times (it doesn't help that she doesn't like snakes or spiders). And there's a death in this movie (no spoilers here), so take caution.
I won't spend a lot of time rehashing the plot, because I think we all know it by now--Harry's in his fourth year at Hogwarts, with his buddies Hermione and Ron. This year there's a new twist; there's going to be Tri-Wizard Tournament, featuring students from Beauxbatons (a French witches' academy--great costumes, by the way) and students from Durmstrang (a Nordic Warlocks academy with a very appropriate name--think Wagner opera and it will come to you). There is to be one champion competing from each school and you have to be over 17. Of course, Harry ends up as an unexpected fourth champion and is entered, because your name coming out of te Goblet constitutes a "binding, magical contract" which cannot be broken. So even though Harry is younger than the others, he will compete in three extremely nerve-wracking tasks--facing a dragon, rescuing a captive from the mermaids in the school lake, and getting through an enormous maze without getting killed. These would be hard enough, but combine the tasks with girl troubles and classwork, and a fight with Ron, Harry's got a lot on his plate. The Final Task ends up being much more than her ever bargained for; it is there that he meets Voldermort, the most evil wizard ever, who tried to kill him at the beginning of the saga and who Harry has been thwarting ever since.
The acting is good; the kids have grown into their roles and play them with depth and passion. I especially appreciated Emma Watson's turn as Hermione in this film. The staff members are more or less superflous, save Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher (who turns Malfoy into a ferret!!), and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). But there's enough Snape and McGonagall to keep us interested (watch the scene where McGonagall is giving ballroom dancing lessons and uses Ron as a prop), and there's Hagrid, who falls in love with the French headmistress. Ralph Fiennes is note-perfect as the creepy and diabolical Voldermort. In a way, I feel bad for the guy--it seems like he was born to play nothing by bad characters (see Schindler's List ). He's just too perfectly suited for them. He must be getting typecast left and right.
The special effects are nicely done but not overpowering, and the cinematography elegantly conveys the darkness of the plot. This is one dark movie. The score, by Patrick Doyle this time instead of John Williams (who was writing the score for Memoirs of a Geisha at this time) is also very well done, and more subtle that Williams' efforts (the famous "Hedwig's Theme" does make an appearance, although in a decidedly minor key).
Overall, a very nice picture that conveys good and evil in ways that everyone can appreciate. It's nice to see a film where good and evil are clearly sketched out, courage is required, and morality is the order of the day--even if it does take place at a wizarding school. :) Go see and enjoy.