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'Harry Potter': Will it be magical?

(CNN) -- This has not been a good year for eagerly awaited big-budget films.

"Hannibal," though it earned a mint for its studio, fared poorly with critics, who thought it "disappointing" and compared it unfavorably with the Oscar-winner from which it spawned, "The Silence of the Lambs." Steven Spielberg's "A.I." drew respectable reviews, but sank at the box office under the weight of its ponderous pace and three -- count 'em, three -- endings.

And then there was "Pearl Harbor," the $140 million leviathan that showed that wall-to-wall computer graphics and colorful explosions couldn't camouflage wooden acting and a leaden script. The film made back its budget, but was widely considered a bomb -- when it was considered at all.

That's not to mention the many lesser films that were given fat purses and glittering casts, and came up empty either with critics, at the box office -- or both. Remember "3000 Miles to Graceland"? "Enemy at the Gates"? "A Knight's Tale"? "Evolution"? "Cats and Dogs"? "America's Sweethearts"? "Planet of the Apes"?

Are you going to see 'Harry Potter'?

Are you kidding? I'll be the first in line!
Yes, sometime opening weekend
Yes, but I'll wait until the crowds die down
No, I have no desire to
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Gallery: Scenes from 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' 
'People in the News': Harry Potter 
Are you wild about 'Harry'? 
Harry Potter Story Archive

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You can bet Hollywood would like to forget.

That's not to say the studios haven't had much money to count. This is shaping up to be Hollywood's most successful year ever, financially. But only "Shrek," "Monsters, Inc." and a handful of others have really gotten people talking and excited about movies. The rest of the year has been a blur, as if something has been missing.

To put it plainly, there hasn't been much magic.

Now comes an 11-year-old wizard to try and put things right. Harry Potter, the hero of J.K. Rowling's beloved and best-selling novels, arrives on screen with all the finery and wonder a $100 million-plus budget can provide in his first movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The movie is produced by Warner Brothers, which is owned by AOL Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

It seems like everything's in place. The casting, from Richard Harris' Dumbledore and Alan Rickman's Snape to the three children who play Harry, Ron and Hermione, appears letter-perfect; the script is by A-list scrivener Steve Kloves ("The Fabulous Baker Boys," "Wonder Boys"); and director Chris Columbus, perhaps considered by fans the most questionable choice to helm the film, has shown an ability to handle children ("Home Alone") and crowd-pleasers ("Mrs. Doubtfire").

So, does "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" cast a spell?

Our reviewers, Paul Clinton and Paul Tatara, flash their critics' wands in Potter's direction.


Click here to read Paul Clinton's review

Click here to read Paul Tatara's review


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