Chris Columbus

Chris Columbus might seem an odd choice to direct the forthcoming "Harry Potter" movie, but a glance through his CV tells a different story.

Columbus's big break came when Steven Spielberg optioned his script for "Gremlins" (1984). After a year of Spielberg-supervised rewrites, the film became one of the most subversive and successful children's movies ever, debunking yet simultaneously reinforcing the spirit of Christmas.

A second Spielberg production soon followed. "The Goonies" (1985) is a fondly remembered kids' film, with a simple treasure hunt plot featuring a gang of wisecracking teens pitted against the comical Fratellis.

The final Columbus-Spielberg collaboration was "Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985), which may be a useful preview of "Harry Potter", featuring an English setting in the halls of Oxford, and fantasy elements such as a stained glass knight that springs to life.

Columbus's first directing stint was the teen comedy "Adventures in Babysitting" (1987), featuring a young Elisabeth Shue. Brat Pack director John Hughes subsequently offered him megaphone duties on "Home Alone" (1990).

"Home Alone" and its 1992 sequel were box office gold, and Columbus became a bankable director in Hollywood, going on to direct the last funny Robin Williams film, "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993).

He's not quite Hollywood's golden boy, though. Misfires include the John Candy-starrer "Only the Lonely" (1991) and "Nine Months" (1995). The Julia Roberts vehicle "Stepmom" (1998) was also below par.

A question mark hovers over the sub-Spielbergian schmaltz in Columbus's later efforts, particularly "Mrs. Doubtfire", while special contempt should be reserved for the execrable "Bicentennial Man" (1999).

If the 43-year-old director's past form is anything to go by, "Harry Potter" should appeal to all age ranges, without condescending to or patronising younger audiences. Let's just hope Columbus recaptures his late 80s/early 90s hot streak in time for this hotly anticipated adaptation.

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