Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
The Movie: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Director: Chris Columbus
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) An orphaned boy enrolls in a school of wizardry, where he learns the truth about himself, his family and the terrible evil that haunts the magical world.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81 percent
Froemming: The terrorists won.
See, since we started this blog, the No. 1 request I have gotten from people was to do one of the “Harry Potter” movies. And given the times we have taken requests (I hate you Kyle Stevens), these sorts of things just backfire on us.
Well, I finally gave in. You asked for this, well you all got it! We watched a movie about someone discovering their true selves ironically written by noted transphobe, J.K. Rowling. A movie of magic and wonders. A movie about wizards. A movie that features kinda antisemitic bankers.
I am starting to see some troubling issues with this writer.
Anyway, we watched the first of the Harry Potter films, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
And, to just get this out of the way, I will give my rankings of the houses at Hogwarts from worst to best:
1. And at No. 1 with a bullet? You guessed it, Frank Stallone!
Rest In Peace, Norm Macdonald.
Brown, as I ponder the concept of love used to burn a man painfully into dust, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: So before this week, I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie, save for bits and pieces here and there, and never read a Harry Potter book.
And the amount of vitriol that I’ve gotten over this factoid is downright frightening. I recall being physically threatened on more than one occasion from co-workers. You know, people I’m supposed to be safe around and not wanting to report to HR.
So I’m disappointed that we let the terrorists win, Froemming. Because we’ve given those monsters power. Now, if we refuse to do the rest of the series, they’re going to storm our respective homes and probably live-stream themselves doing it because they’re patriots or something.
As for the actual content of this movie before watching it… I dunno, it’s a movie about a wizard boy, I heard?
Froemming: I thought that was “Star Wars?“
Brown: Hell if I know.
Anyways, get us started while I lull a three-headed guard dog to sleep.
Froemming: Well, I doubt we will do a lot of these given the runtime of this movie was almost two-and-a-half hours.
Brown: AND there’s, what, seven of these (REDACTED) movies?
Froemming: Anyway, we start with some deadbeat wizards dropping an orphan off at his uncle and aunt’s place, like in “Star Wars,” to be raised safely away from the troubling world of spells, potions and The One Who Cannot Be Named. And like in “Star Wars,” it seems pretty stupid to hide the chosen one with his extended family.
Well, these deadbeat wizards dropped young Harry Potter off with worse than deadbeat parents, these people are like the mom from “A Child Called It.” Harry lives locked in what looks like a broom closet, which also looked exactly like my bedroom in the second apartment I ever lived in.
Brown: The thing is, these parents (Harry’s aunt and uncle, to be accurate) aren’t deadbeats. They’re just assholes. Case in point: They bought Harry’s cousin, what, 37 presents for his birthday?
We should also mention that when Harry was being given up by Hogwarts professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, they talk about great and powerful he’ll be in the future, like he’s some sort of prophet.
He also has a mark in the shape of a lightning bolt on his head. When the boy with the mark returns, Hogwarts will truly embrace the day they can remove the Stone of Shame with the Stone of Triumph!
But first, Harry has to deal with his terrible extended family.
Froemming: This family seems more like the parents and siblings of Augustus Gloop than some weird British family.
Also, all I know about life in the UK comes from Monty Python and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
So, it is young Dudley Dursley’s birthday and he has a tantrum that he does not have enough presents and the aunt and uncle treat Harry like shit. Which, even when we find out a little bit why, still makes them complete monsters. Hell, Vernon threatens to not feed Harry for a week if the trip to the zoo has any shenanigans.
Brown: I will say that the aunt and uncle’s complaints about the animals being boring and sleeping at the zoo are completely valid. I’ve maintained for years that the zoo is an amazing place to see your favorite animals sleep.
However, this is also where we get our first glimpse of Harry’s wizarding, when he can talk to a snake and can make the glass from the snake enclosure disappear.
… Only for Harry’s uncle to rip it up and burn all subsequent letters from Hogwarts.
Froemming: What Vernon did not anticipate is this sage advice from New York mailman, Newman:
Brown: Yeah, a parliament of owls (yes, that’s what a group of owls is called, and that’s (REDACTED) amazing) keep delivering letters from Hogwarts, to the point where the family is literally being flooded with envelopes. And these evil people are so committed to stopping this, they vacation in what looks like a castle to get away from the owls. And of course, Harry sleeps on the dirt floor. On his birthday.
It’s then that a literal giant barges into the castle
and asks if anybody wants a peanut.
Froemming: This giant is Hagrid, a character I really enjoyed because he always lets information slip as he blabs on and on about things. He informs Harry that he has been accepted to Hogwarts and has a birthday cake for him, which misspells “happy” on it. Also, Harry’s cousin starts eating it so Hagrid gives him a pig’s tail, because fat shaming was still acceptable in 2001.
Brown: Think Harry’s cousin would tug at the tail and say “curly-straight-curly-straight” like I absolutely would?
Froemming: Do you think that pig had some powerful friends?
Brown: And we’re missing the lede here. Hagrid drops the news that Harry’s a wizard.
Froemming: Yup, and his parents were too. And here we find that Petunia Dursley still carries a ton of baggage from a child when her sister got all this praise for being a witch or something. Yeah, that stinks, Petunia, but taking it out on this child his whole life is what professionals call “a real dick move.”
Brown: Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me. Like, they wanted to protect Harry from this life, but Petunia clearly has so much disdain for her sister that she makes Harry live in a (REDACTED) crawlspace. Clearly, they hate this kid, so why keep ripping up the letters and let him go live in Hogwarts?
Froemming: I will let Michael Bay answer this for you.
Hagrid takes the boy and first things first: They need to go shopping for his wizard stuff. Also, non-magical people are called “muggles” which sounds like an actual derogatory slang term British people would use. Harry needs an animal, a wand and whatnot. To pay for this, they need to go to the Wizard Bank or whatever it is called.
Here, we see the bank is run by
antisemtic WWII propaganda drawings goblins. Yeah, goblins.
Brown: These goblins look awfully familiar, like the ones seen in “Troll 2.” So naturally, my reaction to seeing them…
Also, this bank has vaults that operate like the Hellfish Bonanza. AND, I’m pretty sure this wizard world runs on tokens not unlike the John Wick universe. While at the bank, we see Hagrid pick up something for Dumbledore in the Hogwarts vault and he’s awfully secretive about it.
What’s not so secretive is when Hagrid blurts out details of Harry’s past. He’s the son of a wizard and a witch who were killed by the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. However, Harry survived the attack (left only with his lightning scar) and is known throughout the wizard world as “The Boy Who Lived.”
So yeah, way to burder Harry with survivor’s guilt there, Hagrid.
Lame nickname notwithstanding, what I give this movie a ton of credit for is how well it builds its world through the story and scenery. Yes, they have to set up for a LOT of other movies, but “Sorcerer’s Stone” builds a damn good foundation.
Froemming: I felt the same way. Slowly builds and gives us time to take it in.
Well, now Harry has to hop a train to Hogwarts, but his ticket is a station number that does not exist. So he wanders around until he spots a family of soulless gingers talking about Hogwarts.
This guy ^^^ was definitely a Weasley family member.
Anywho, Harry realizes he needs to run headfirst into a brick wall to get to his train.
Now, on the train a soulless ginger named Ron Weasley wants to sit with him, and Harry is too nice to say no. And Harry decides to spend his inheritance we saw earlier like a drunken sailor and buys all this junk food for him and Ron to eat. Yup, nothing better than children getting hopped up on sugar.
Brown: On this train ride, we’re also introduced to Hermione Granger, who is the Lisa Simpson of the group: Hogwarts’ answer to a question no one asked.
I don’t know about you, Froemming, but it was a tad weird to see a young Emma Watson in this considering how dark it was the last time she showed up in a JOE-DOWN movie when we reviewed “This is the End.”
When we arrive at Hogwarts, we are also introduced to obvious future antagonist Draco Malfoy, who gets hair styling tips from Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson from “D2.”
When the kids arrive at Hogwarts, they are immediately funneled into the dining hall where the kids are basically read their social future when they’re placed in one of four dormitories: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
And this is all decided by a (REDACTED) talking hat.
Froemming: Five if you include, you guessed it, Frank Stallone.
Yeah, is this the magic hat Joseph Smith used to create the Mormon religion? I think so, considering how angry this thing is. Obviously, the young Republican kid gets Slytherin, where Harry does not want to go. We are also told those who are in this house usually end up being villains, which raises the question: Why not just get rid of that house, then?
Well, Harry lands in Gryffindor with his buddy Ron. We also have a brief sighting of Hans Gruber, who faked his death after his botched robbery at Nakatomi Plaza and became a wizard named Snape who dresses like mid-90s Trent Reznor and is obsessed with the dark arts, probably searching for his revenge against New York cop, John McClane.
Brown: So throughout this movie, Harry is being treated like some sort of celebrity as “The Boy Who Lived.” He’s like a Hilton sister or a Kardashian and is famous for, well, being famous.
During broom flying class, which feels like a waste of wizard taxpayer dollars to fund a school that teaches this, Harry and Malfoy get into a spat that leads Harry’s flying talents to be shown to one of the teachers. After seeing this, instead of Harry getting in trouble for disobeying his teacher for flying while she’s away taking care of local dunce Neville, Harry is put on Griffindor’s quidditch team as the school’s youngest seeker since his own father.
What is quidditch, you may ask? Honestly, it’s a convoluted mess that is ultimately decided when a seeker catches an orb that flies around like a hummingbird.
Brown: One night, as Harry, Ron and Hermione are heading back to their dorm, the always-shifting staircase (which makes no goddamn sense) sends them to a forbidden part of the school where they run into Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Greek mythology.
… Hagrid, oaf that he is, named said creature Fluffy.
The next day, Ron makes Hermione cry after she made him look like a fool earlier in the day. So Hermione spends an entire day crying in the bathroom. Why? Because she’s the chick, I guess. I think they’re trying to follow the “Always Sunny” group dynamic: Harry’s the brains AND the looks, Ron’s the wild card and Hermione’s the useless chick.
Froemming: Kids can be so cruel. Also, Ron said she has no friends and this is kinda their beginnings at this school, so it was a real dick thing for that soulless ginger to say. So I can relate to Hermione’s situation here.
Well, at dinner some stuttering chucklehead named Quirinus Quirrell comes running in saying some monster escaped the basement. What the (REDACTED) kind of school is this? Three-headed dogs, monsters, John Cleese, stairs that move like when I used to take…never mind, this is just too much for a children’s school.
Well, Ron and Harry realize Hermione is still in the bathroom, crying because a soulless ginger mocked her. So, they need to save her. Do they tell an adult? Nope, they just go off on their own.
And where does this monster that escaped head to? The women’s bathroom, leading me to believe on top of being a monster, this thing is a pervert too.
Brown: You know, for a know-it-all like Hermione, she really pulls a bone-headed move when, with Harry and Ron distracting the troll, instead of booking it for the door, she hides under the sink. And she gets seen immediately because that’s a stupid (REDACTED) hiding spot.
But, she’s able to save her own bacon by levitating the troll’s club, which then falls onto said troll’s head for the knockout blow.
Next time, Hermione will be better prepared by using an axe when she’s in peril.
Froemming: Wow, you are really punching down on Hermione here like some red-piller at a MAGA rally. Wow.
Anyway, the three realize Fluffy is probably protecting something secret. I forget how, but they land shockingly on the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is exactly what is being guarded. And they suspect Snape is the culprit trying to steal the thing. Look, the guy is socially awkward, dresses like mid-90s Trent Reznor and is really into dark weird stuff. I can relate since this was how I was when I was 15 years old. Sure, he is a little too old for this, but that doesn’t make him the bad guy.
Brown: Wait, were you also wearing a cloak to school like Snape? Because if you want me to punch down, I’ll totally go after 15-year-old Froemming.
Froemming: Man, you need to get off those Reddit boards and back into civilized society. Like the lunch lady in “Billy Madison,” you’re scaring me.
Brown: The group’s mistrust of Snape shows when we get a quidditch sequence that sees Harry win the game for Gryffindor. During the match, Hermione notices that Snape is “jinxing the broom,” causing it to nearly buck off Harry which would (I assume) lead to his death. Because even at Hogwarts, wizards can suffer fall damage.
So, Hermione, being the most adept with spells among these super friends, lights Snape’s cloak on fire, which lets Harry regain control of his broom, eventually leading to victory.
Then we fast-forward all the way to Christmas time. Because yes, in the world of wizards, witches, spells, potions and magic, we still believe in our lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Looking for somewhere to turn (I forgot how we got here, I just recall there was an invisibility cloak and a restricted part of the library that was comically easy to break into), the kids go to Hagrid. And because he’s a blabbermouth, he tells them how to get past Fluffy (just some music and he’ll fall asleep).
I swear, if Hagrid can’t stop spilling the beans, the higher-ups at Hogwarts are going to “Layla” his snitch ass.
Froemming: Speaking of snitches, one night the three are out and the Young Republican follows them and rats them out to McGonagall, who puts them all in detention. Detention being they have to go with Hagrid and Argus Filch, the caretaker, into the haunted woods or whatever it is called.
Honestly, I would not trust Filch after he orchestrated the infamous Red Wedding:
Out in the woods they are getting unicorn blood, which is a weird thing in general. They all split up like in a horror movie and Harry and the Republican find a shadowy figure lapping up said blood. This figure goes after Harry only to be thwarted by, well since I saw this while at the gym and the darkness was hard to see, I will say it was a Mopplethwing (yes, I made it up but sounds like something that could exist in this universe).
Brown: First, unicorn blood looks to be the same color and viscosity as the liquid Terminator from “T2: Judgement Day.” So, this is an obligatory “T2” theme reference.
Also, the thing that saves the kids is a centaur. And like Christopher Walken, I have so MANY questions to ask a centaur.
The kids’ suspicion of Snape is at an all-time high and they’re convinced that he is the man after the sorcerer’s stone. So, they’re headed down to protect it.
They get past Fluffy, who is already asleep after someone *checks notes* used an enchanted harp to lull him to sleep. Then, they slip through some plants called Devil’s snare, which seems like some nonsense that Poison Ivy would use to capture Batman. Also, for some reason, when the Devil’s snare is hit with sunlight, it makes the same roaring sound as the T-Rex from “Jurassic Park.”
Froemming: After this, they come across a giant chessboard, and find they cannot get to the last part of this place without a game of wizard’s chess, which just made me think of this song:
Which, they play well, but for poor, soulless ginger Ron, this song is more like this:
Yeah, Ron sacrifices himself so Harry can save the day. He has Hermione stay after, because reasons and he goes it alone.
And here comes the old bait and switch. We expect Snape to be there, but it is just the stuttering chucklehead Quirinus Quirrell. We also find out Snape was trying to save Harry during the game of Calvinball, and Quirrell was trying to kill him.
Quirrell is looking into this magical mirror we skipped over because this movie is too long, but it shows what people want most in life. So this numbskull sees himself with the sorcerer’s stone and has no idea how to get it. So asks the kid who is brand (REDACTED) new to all of this to tell him how this works.
WHAT? This guy even has Voldemort growing out of the back of his head and still is relying on a green child to figure out magic that the two of them have studied their whole lives?
WHAT? This just confused the (REDACTED) out of me.
Brown: I feel like that glosses over how terrifying it is to see Voldemort sprouting out of the back of a man’s head like he’s Kuato from “Total Recall.” I’m shocked he wasn’t telling Harry to open his mind.
Harry won’t surrender the stone (which, because this movie is so long, I completely forgot why the stone is important), so Voldemort orders Quirrell to kill Harry.
Quirrell goes in for the attack but Harry dodges him. And in that action, we see Quirrell starting to burn up and fall apart. Harry then puts his hands on Quirrell and turns the man into ash like a less genocidal Thanos.
Voldemort’s essence flies out to God knows where, knocking Harry out in the process.
Harry eventually wakes up in an infirmary, where Dumbledore informs him that the stone has been destroyed and his friends are safe.
A couple things here: A. If the stone was so important to keep it at the school, then why destroy it? And B. Does Gryffindor lose points for the House Cup because Harry, you know, killed a teacher?
Oh, it bears mentioning that, apparently, the reason Harry’s touch caused Quirrell to turn to ash was because of his mother and *checks notes* the power of love.
(REDACTED) you, movie.
Froemming: Harry and his good-time pals are rewarded for breaking all the rules and killing a teacher and falsely accusing another of nefarious crimes against the school, putting their house in first place, because points work in this world like they did here:
Brown: You wonder why Slytherin produces evil wizards and witches? Because of bullshit like this where they’re robbed of proper kudos because of a terrible arbitrary system that rewards murder of educators. That’s enough to turn any slick-haired kid evil.
So it’s the end of the school year and everyone is heading home for the summer.
… So this movie ends with Harry going back to living in a crawlspace and being berated by his awful aunt, uncle and cousin?!
That is a terrible happy ending, movie.
And with that, let’s go to recommendations before Dumbledore starts giving away points like Toad gives out stars at the end of a “Mario Party” game.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: I would. I enjoyed the world building and the movie taking its time with that. I liked this way more than I thought I would.
Brown: I was not expecting this going in, but I had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s a well-done foundation piece for a much-beloved series. Wish it was shorter, but it’s an entertaining watch nonetheless. Doesn’t mean I want to watch the rest of the series, but now people can leave me the hell alone!
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: