Based on one of the best books of the Harry Potter series, the film adaptation of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet' had a lot to live up to and I think it succeeded. As Potter fans will know, in GoF, Harry is now fourteen and in his Fourth Year at Hogwarts. When an ancient tournament between Hogwarts and two other European wizarding schools is held that year, a Seventh Year contestant is chosen from each school to compete but things go dramatically awry when Harry, three years too young to even be entered in the dangerous and challenging tournament, is somehow also chosen after his name is mysteriously nominated. GoF is a sharp turning point in the books as the tone darkens considerably and the characters themselves change from being rather wide-eyed innocent children to adolescents thrust the turbulent, uncertain adult world where being 'good' or even an innocent will not guarantee your survival. This shift is also reflected in the film, which was rated 12A (PG13 for Americans), the first of the HP films to be rated so high.
I have to say I did enjoy this film, although Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favourite of the four. Unlike the first two films, this did not attempt to condescend as much to small children in the audience. The tasks of the Triwizard tournament captured most of the thrills of the book, particularly the second water-based task where the merpeople were suitably creepy (now we know why none of the kids go swimming in the summer term!), but the first task over-ran for a minute or two more than needed. Light romance was touched upon yet wasn't over-emphasised and the Yule Ball will please those who enjoyed the scenes in the book but audience members over the age of sixteen might find teens ogling each other a tad dull (Hermione is very out-of-character and the scene does drag).
The acting of the adult cast is, of course, exemplary as always. Alan Rickman's Snape may only have had four or so scenes but he definitely made his presences known while Maggie Smith really captured the essence of McGonagall. Many people do miss Richard Harris' Dumbledore but I found that Michael Gambon has done an excellent job of moulding the role to make it his own. In GoF, Dumbledore feels very human in the way he carries the weight of the wizarding world on his shoulders and though he struggles at times, his concern for his pupils is paramount. I finally felt the close rapport between Dumbledore and Harry in this film that was missing in the previous three HP flicks. However, the prize has to go to Brendan Gleeson for his scene-stealing depiction of Mad-Eye Moody. Gleeson clearly enjoyed illustrating Moody's dangerous, feral edge.
The younger cast have also grown into their roles, improving from their previous outing. Rupert Grint, usually used to playing a comical and stupid Ron, had the chance to cut his acting teeth and show Ron's darker, bitter side and he did well. The Phelp twins have also improved dramatically. No longer do they come across as wooden cut-outs just reading from a cue-card and instead they are able to show the mischievous spontaneity of the Weasley twins. And I look forward to seeing more of Matthew Lewis, who was great at showing Neville's sensitive side without making him too klutzy. Out of the younger cast, though, Dan Radcliffe is the one who has progressed the most. In PoA, he was awful in the 'he was their friend' scene so he seems like another boy in the harrowing graveyard scene and the aftermath, depicting Harry's anger, feelings of vulnerability and grief. He still stumbled on occasion in other scenes but I, at last, have faith he might be able to do the Harry of 'Order of the Phoenix' justice when the time comes.
The film did lose points on a few issues. Although most of the young cast have expanded their acting skills as they have gone on, Emma Watson is waning. She has a tendency of over-enunciating her lines and being too melodramatic, which worked in 'The Philosopher's Stone' when Hermione was condescending and childishly bossy, but is just annoying by this point. She spent most of the film sounding as if she was on the verge of tears or in a hormonal snit, even in scenes which were not remotely sad or upsetting. There was also a choppy feel to the film, as if Steve Kloves struggled to properly condense the book into a two-hour film. Those who haven't read the books will have missed quite a bit and those who have read the books will feel the film is very rushed. Molly Weasley and the Dursleys were also missed, especially since I think Julie Walters would have been exceptional in the Molly/Harry interactions that take place aftermath of the graveyard scenes of the novel as the film didn't round off in a manner that reflected a boy had died and Harry would be traumatised by what he saw.
I think most Potter fans will enjoy this although they will remark that it could have been better. Non-fans will also get something from this film as I imagine it is hard not to be captivated by the many action and dramatic events but they may find themselves muddled by the story. I would recommend that parents of young children either keep away or, at the very least, check out the film firstly before deciding if their child is old enough to cope with it. When I went to see it, there was a small lad of four or five being dragged along and in the middle of a particularly fearsome incident, the silence of the moment was cut by a wee voice crying, 'Mummy, I'm scared' so, parents, be warned.