Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Book, film, franchise: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone had to happen. The children's novel had sold around 45 million copies last time anybody bothered to check. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has bewitched kids and adults with a fervor not seen since C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles or J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Of course, this newcomer is a little hostile toward the competition. Narnia held strong Christian themes at its center while many groups accuse Rowling's work of being satanic (with its wizards, witches, and magicless non-believing humans denigrated as Muggles). On the flip side, the film adaptation of Tolkien's book may be the only force strong enough to knock Harry off his enchanted, enchanting throne.
Director Chris Columbus (Goonies, Home Alone) and his production crew were determined to stay true to the book. They certainly succeeded. Fans will delight in the elaborate sets, meticulous attention to detail, and excellent casting. They will balk at many of the special effects, though. One assumes that the big fish at AOL Time Warner overspent their budget on marketing and developing product tie-ins in time for the Christmas season and opted to cut corners in the computer-effects department.
Books happen in the imagination, and for a truly innovative literature-to-film adaptation, the source material must be re-imagined for the silver screen by someone with enough respect for the original to depart from it. This is not the case with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which literalizes the book quite well but projects no cinematic magic of its own.