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Published: Saturday, 11/17/2001

`Harry' fans give quiet approval

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

At 9:43 a.m. yesterday, while the morning haze burned off, a small freckled boy stood outside the Showcase Maumee wearing a long black wizard's hat with stars and half moons on it and a black cape and a red and yellow rugby shirt and oval wire frame glasses and a lightning bolt tattoo on his forehead. Just like his hero, Harry.

He jumped in place and rocked from side to side and jumped in place some more and ran up to the window of the locked theater and pressed his face against the tinted glass and ran back to his parents and jumped in place for approximately 20 minutes more.

So went the line outside Showcase Maumee for the first screening of the eagerly awaited film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It snaked from the main doors and ran alongside the theater for a few hundred feet. On both sides of the building.

Inside ushers waited nervously. “Unlock doors,” yelled a manager.

“Unlocking doors now!”

From left, Kellie Roberts, Deb Essing, Stephen Davis, Robert Oliver, Jasmine Boyd, Melaniya Woodward, Delaney and Casey Mahoney, and Meredith Tong, wait for the film to start. From left, Kellie Roberts, Deb Essing, Stephen Davis, Robert Oliver, Jasmine Boyd, Melaniya Woodward, Delaney and Casey Mahoney, and Meredith Tong, wait for the film to start.
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Then ... well, picture the Running of the Bulls in Spain, only with less trampling, panic, and bulls, and more 9-year old girls shrieking in expectant delight. Human gridlock filled the theater. It was like Christmas morning and everyone knew what they were getting. All they wanted was a movie slavishly true to the beloved book series - no surprises, please! - and that's what they got and that's why they adored it.

Some before they saw it.

“This is such a good movie,” a doe-eyed girl cooed, settling into her seat, 15 minutes before the movie started. She sat near the seven children and two teachers (all Harry fans) that The Blade invited to the first screening.

We wanted to gauge their reactions. Let them play movie critic. Four of the children - Jasmine Boyd, 10, Stephen Davis, 11, Robert Oliver, 10, and Melaniya Woodard, 10, all fifth graders - and two teachers, Deb Essing, 47, and Kellie Roberts, 37, were from Sherman Elementary School in Toledo. The other three were students at Cardinal Stritch High School: Meredith Tong and Casey Mahoney (15-year old sophomores) and Casey's sister, Delaney, 11.

“I hope it does justice to the book,” said Meredith, waiting in her seat, “and is not just this special-effects thing.”

Down the aisle, Ms. Essing fretted: “What will make or break this movie for me is how closely they can connect what I saw in my head when I was reading with what I see on the screen.” Ms. Roberts nodded. She didn't want another bad adaptation of a favorite read: Please not another Bridges of Madison County, she said. “They need to get the tone right, but the characters have to be exactly like in the book too.”

Then the lights went down and the audience cheered and as the film began, children murmured in recognition, comparing notes. Robert wished he had brought his copy of the book, to see how closely it followed the text. Ms. Essing and Ms. Roberts leaned toward each other periodically. “That's just like I pictured it,” they whispered.

But two hours and 45 minutes later (there are 15 minutes of previews) the reaction was unanimous: Very true to the book. “I liked it better than the book,” Jasmine said. “You get more in the book, but the movie goes a lot quicker.” Stephen and Robert liked how the movie showed them what a three-headed dog looked like. Casey liked it, but not the special effects. “When the [film's wizards-in-training] were flying on broomsticks, it kind of felt like watching a video game.”

Oddly, no one gushed or seemed excited. It was more like they were ... comforted.

Kris Keaton from Genoa let her kids stay home from school yesterday so they could see Harry. “It was a treat,” she said. “They all made honor roll.” Glancing at her children, Ashlee, 7, Amanda, 8, and Greg, 10, she said, “Two hours, 45 minutes flew by.”

For her anyway. Ashlee wasn't wild about Harry. Asked if she liked the movie, she scrunched her face, looking a little sheepish at her reaction. After all, it's hard being the lone voice of dissent.

Greg stepped up. He liked the movie, he said. But the book was better. Like other Potter devotees at the theater, he immediately pounced on plot divergences (not enough baby dragon, for instance) that the film either glossed over or eliminated in the service of making a 2 1/2 hour epic rather than a 3 1/2 -hour one.

“I didn't think there was enough from the book in the movie,” he said. He's a stickler, this one. He read all the books. “And I'm reading the fourth again.”

Ashlee stood at his side, rolling her eyes as he explained the minutiae of Harry Potter. But when he said he'd been rereading the fourth book, she stopped moving. She looked at him with the deepest phony sincerity ever summoned by a 7-year-old, like a mini-Barbara Walters.

“Is it cool?” Ashlee asked.

Yeah,” Greg answered.

“Then can I smack you now?”



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