There can be few people in the country who know nothing of the Harry Potter phenomenon. The legions of fans have all spoken with the same voice, calling for the film to remain faithful to the book. Fear not. Aside from some minor changes to keep the film beneath the whopping two and a half hours that it became, J.K. Rowling's wonderful story remains intact.
For the muggles out there who are unfamiliar with the story, it follows the adventures of 11-year-old Harry Potter, an orphan with a tragic past and an uncertain future. Unloved by his Aunt and Uncle, Harry is invited to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There his adventures begin as Harry and friends Ron and Hermione, attempt to unravel the mystery of the Philosopher's Stone. Along the way they battle with Trolls and a magical three-headed dog, not to mention Potter's arch nemesis Lord Voldemort.
Assembling a young and inexperienced cast is always a risky business but on the whole the gamble has paid off. Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role is a prime example. He pulls off the daunting task of being onscreen for 95% of the film, without losing our interest or affection, with some aplomb.
Robbie Coltrane's screen presence as Hagrid, the amiable giant, is massive in every sense of the word. His scenes with Harry are in turns touching and hilarious. It is no surprise that his was the first name on Rowling's list of 'must have' actors and he carries this burden on his massive shoulders with ease.
The special effects bring the whole magical world to life. The aerial sequences in the Quidditch match stand up against anything that Spielberg could offer without ever becoming overblown or intrusive. Small children may find some of the effects particularly scary; but as the older ones will tell them, being frightened is half the fun.
For the past couple of years few homes in the country would not have heard the lament "When is the next Harry Potter book out?" Now director Chris Columbus and his team have created a mini-masterpiece that will have fans screaming the same question about the next instalment of the film.
Early in the film the loathsome Uncle Vernon tells young Harry that "There's no such thing as magic". Well, he's got it all wrong. This film is just that...