A wizard, a true star

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Clocking in at a hefty 157 minutes, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is very nearly the longest installment in the hugely successful and sometimes long-winded Potter franchise, but not to worry. Despite the formidable running time, there's barely an ounce of fat on this latest helping of J.K. Rowling's much-loved recipe.

Although somewhat darker in tone than its predecessors, Goblet of Fire is every bit as blockbusterific as the rest of the series, and, despite its length, is designed for maximum efficiency. The new Potter adventure moves at a brisk clip, re-establishing old characters and introducing new ones while supplying an abundance of those purely fantastic flourishes that fans of the series have come to expect.

The Hogwarts kids are all lurching into sexual maturity in this latest installment and the hormones are raging as the young wizards juggle socializing with keeping the world safe from demonic forces. Director Mike Newell (curiously enough, the first Englishman to helm this distinctly British series) pares away Rowling's gratuitous sub-plots and paces what's left beautifully, segueing from moments of light comedy and budding romance (occasionally verging on an enchanted version of The O.C.) to sequences of unexpected intensity that test the film's PG-13 rating.

The story is, as usual, more basic good-versus-evil stuff, but Newell and company present it in such fine style that we barely notice the empty calories. Stars Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes and Michael Gambon.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) opens Nov. 18 at local theaters. 4 stars.

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