(In theaters, November 2002) I’m probably not alone in saying that the Harry Potter series is essentially critic-proof as far as I’m concerned. The way they’re handled, I will simply pay up and enjoy with nary a complaint. Fortunately, it just so happens that this film, like the previous one, is quite good. A happy mix of magic and good storytelling, this second instalment builds on the first one and deepens the universe in which Harry lives, though understandably not as much as the book does. While there are significant differences between the book and the movie (enough to make some go “huh?” at some of the film’s least coherent moments), those aren’t critical or thematically different from the source material. The acting is top-notch (with a particularly amusing Kenneth Branagh), and all three lead youngsters ably demonstrate their ability to hold a picture together: Daniel Radcliffe is more assured this time around (a characteristic he shares with his character) and Emma Watson’s Hermione is still my favorite character (despite a shortened screen presence). The impression of unoriginal manipulation so prevalent in the first film is here attenuated. Good stuff for kids and adults, genre fans and mundanes. Why is it that we’ll have to wait two whole years before the next one?