Having garnered a massive worldwide following, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter book series was always destined for big screen success. Critics too fell under the spell of the boy wizard struggling to come to terms with his personal demons and wand-waving responsibilities. The third instalment of the series, The Prisoner Of Azkaban, was no exception with director Alfonso Cuarón producing a "funny, thrilling and, yes, somewhat enchanting" precursor to The Goblet Of Fire.
Paul Whitehouse, as the blustering Sir Cadogan, is the highlight in two out of five "unfinished" scenes; otherwise this is a somewhat disappointing assemblage of raw (and only slightly) extended footage. On the bright side, Lenny Henry also gets a few more lines, voicing the Shrunken Head and playing comic foil to Johnny Vaughn as he interviews cast and crew in Head To Shrunken Head. Daniel Radcliffe also adds comedy value, chuckling uncontrollably as he tells the story of being accosted with a proposal of marriage by a woman dressed only in a small Harry Potter towel. However, Vaughn’s interview with David Thewlis and Gary "I’m doing it for the kids!" Oldman is the best of a generous bunch, even if Thewlis confesses to never having read the Potter books.
Along with Cuarón and the film's producers, JK Rowling has her say in Creating The Vision, letting us into the darkest corners of her mind when she reveals that the Dementors were taken from a nightmare she had as a child. While slowly edging away from the scary scribe, Cuarón talks about the ways he enhanced the source material without breaking the rules of her carefully ordered universe. "I wouldn’t let him," says Rowling with a sinister sideways grin. Shudder...
Conjuring A Scene throws light on the movie's magical visuals, like the grand scale production design of Castle Azkaban to the gruesome makeup and digital jiggery-pokery used to transform Thewlis into a rabid werewolf. Even Crookshanks the cat had to endure hours in hair and makeup, as seen in the warm and fuzzy Care Of Magical Creatures featurette.
To top things off there's a vast array of glossy, interactive games, including the cat-and-mouse chase Catch Scabbers and, for older children, the more sophisticated Quest Of Sir Cadogan, a journey through Azkaban Castle that requires wits as well as clicks. Two iPIX tours (of Honeydukes and Professor Lupin's classroom) are slightly less compelling although beautifully crafted with meticulous attention to detail.
On the downside, the omission of audio commentaries and the lack of input from screenwriter Steven Kloves (who had a mammoth task on his hands after all) leaves a big gap in terms of demystifying the process of adapting such a beloved novel. Nonetheless, this two-disc edition Of The Prisoner Of Azkaban is packed with enough fun to keep the mini-muggles entranced for hours.