Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Release Date: June 4, 2004

The Great Pumpkin is really freakin' scary.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
8/48 Les Winan The best of the Potter films to date. An extremely satisfying translation from book-to-movie.
10/126 Kim Hollis Something wicked this way comes, indeed. Alfonso CuarĂ³n totally gets the darkness of the Potter universe.
18/92 David Mumpower When we look back in 20 years, I would not be surprised to discover this is hailed as the best of the Potter films.

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Before we start the casting fun, let's briefly recap the plot of the third installment of the Harry Potter series for the 6 people on the planet who haven't already read the book:

Harry has once again spent the summer school holiday with the dreadful Dursleys. Because of an unpleasant magical incident involving Uncle Vernon's even more tedious sister, Harry flees the Dursleys and ends up living at the Leaky Cauldron hotel/pub in magical Diagon Alley until the school year starts. He learns that eeeeeeevil murderer Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison of Azkaban and that there is reason to believe that Black might come after Harry to do him some kind of unnamed harm. On the train ride back to school, Harry and the rest of the Hogwarts Scooby Gang encounter a gang of Dementors--basically bounty hunter versions of the Grim Reaper, only not as inclined to play Twister and rock out on electric guitar as Bill and Ted might have led us to believe. When one of the Dementors gets a little too frisky with Harry, he gets a little help from Remus Lupin, the new Defense Against Dark Arts teacher. (Fun pop culture side game: start counting the number of times you see a journalist use the phrase "drummer for Spinal Tap" in connection with a Hogwarts DADA teacher.) As the school year unfolds, Sirius Black continues to close in Harry until we reach a climatic ending in which Harry learns more about his parents and the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Most of the original cast returns, including virtually all of the child actors, Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) Alan Rickman (Professor Snape) and Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall). Because of the unfortunate real life death of Richard Harris, Professor Dumbledore will now be played by respected British actor Michael Gambon (best known for his roles in Gosford Park and Sleepy Hollow). Although Ewan McGregor was rumored to be in the running for the Remus Lupin role, apparently the producers were concerned that McGregor's standard "mandatory nudity" clause would cause them to lose their PG rating, so he was passed over in favor of David Thewlis (coincidentally best known for his role in Naked).

However, in the most amusing casting news of all, the role of Sirius Black ended up going to Gary "Never Met a Ridiculous Hairstyle He Didn't Like" Oldman. Now don't get me wrong, Oldman is more than capable of turning in a brilliant performance when he's properly reined in, but let's just say that his animagus form is likely to be rather.....porcine. (Mmmmmmmm, hammy.) Rounding out the new cast is Timothy Spall, an actor who tends to show up as the sad sack dude in low budget Brit films when Mark Addy is otherwise engaged. Oscar winner Emma Thompson has signed as Sybill Trelawny, the flaky Professor of Divination, while 70's sex goddess Julie Christie cameos as Hogsmeade townie Madame Rosmerta, the witchy proprietress of Three Broomsticks pub.

Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys, Harry Potter 1 and 2) reprises his adaptation duties, and as the books get longer and more intricate, he's going to have more opportunity to earn his salary. The Prisoner of Azkaban arguably has the most engaging, movie-friendly plot of the series, but he's still going to have to make some choices to get the movie down to a managable running time.

In a particularly promising development, previous director Chris Columbus, whose work can most charitably be described as "workmanlike", has bowed out and been replaced by Alfonso Cuaron. Cuaron has shown great promise in a variety of projects including the excellent "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and the well-reviewed children's movie, "A Little Princess." His addition to the project can only be a good thing and the trailers, posters and photo stills released so far look terrrrrrrr-iffic. We have high hopes that Cuaron will be able to replicate the *ahem* magic feeling of the books that has been somewhat lacking in the first two films. (Calvin Trager/BOP)

Vital statistics for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Main Cast Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman
Supporting Cast Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Christie, Timothy Spall, David Bradley, Warwick Davis
Director Alfonso Cuaron
Screenwriter Steven Kloves
Distributor Warner Bros.
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site http://azkaban.warnerbros.com/
Rating PG
Running Time 142 minutes
Screen Count 3,855 (Estimated)
Awards Awards page for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 11/16/0190.29 96.36 3672 24590.00 25242.8 317.56 338.93 3.52
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 11/15/0288.36 91.86 3682 23997.00 23997.0 261.99 272.39 2.97
Monsters, Inc. 11/2/0163.48 67.75 3237 19611.00 20131.6 255.87 273.09 4.03
Lord of the Rings, The: The Two Towers 12/20/0261.50 63.94 3622 16980.00 16980.0 340.48 353.99 4.89
Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas 11/17/0055.08 61.61 3127 17614.00 18953.8 260.03 290.89 4.72
Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring 12/21/0147.21 50.38 3359 14055.00 14428.1 313.84 334.96 6.06
Shrek 5/18/0142.35 45.20 3587 11805.00 12118.4 267.65 285.66 6.32



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