Gorgeous production design, lovely cinematography, a mega-Brit all-star cast, fine young actors and the hopes and prayers of millions couldn't save this over-stuffed, too-long and quite unnecessary adaptation of the hugely popular crossover kids' book. Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone
, Mrs. Doubtfire
, Nine Months
) brings his bullying "Hey, look, Ma!" touch to Hogwarts, and doesn't even try to resist throwing in every special effect once done better by a more original director. (The ham-fisted John Williams soundtrack doesn't help.) Still, the film can only accelerate the juggernaut of youthful literary appreciation J.K. Rowling's ideally addictive novels have started rolling. Save your money to buy the next Potter
in hardback; after you scarf it you can rent it to your friends.