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Harry Potter and Company are growing up on the big screen. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is taller and his voice is deeper. His best friend Ron (Rupert Grint) has a waver in his voice too. The clever and somewhat haughty Hermione (Emma Watson) is looking more like a promising prom date for one of them. And the challenges the three amigos face in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets have gotten more frightening.

When Harry makes a dramatic return to the campus at Hogwarts School for Wizards, he discovers that there is danger on the loose. A mysterious villain has opened a "chamber of secrets" and unleashed a powerful monster that is turning students into stone. Harry, once again smarter than his teachers, must investigate the mystery with his two loyal friends and break school rules along the way.

The new adventure is told with more confidence, better pacing, and more elaborate special effects. Columbus turns down the volume on sentimentality and the John Williams score, and makes Chamber of Secrets funnier and more exciting than Sorcerer's Stone. But it is also long and scarier than the first movie—much scarier. Parents should think twice before buying tickets for small children. The spiders and snakes preying on poor Harry are the stuff of serious nightmares.

But moviegoers will probably find this episode more compelling for several reasons. The idea of hidden villains is increasingly more real to us, as reports of terrorists and snipers dominate the news.

New grownup cast members Kenneth Branagh, Rosemary Harris, Miriam Margolyes, and The Patriot's Jason Isaacs bring so much humor and enthusiasm to the proceedings, they'll make George Lucas's straitjacketed Star Wars actors want to switch franchises.

Moreover, Chamber provides ...

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