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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Return to Hogwarts review: The magic endures

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Return to Hogwarts review: Reuniting the cast members, directors and other crew members for one last time, Return to Hogwarts reminds that although nearly 10 years have passed since we saw the final Potter movie, the magic endures.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
Updated: January 2, 2022 2:14:48 pm
Return To Hogwarts, harry potter reunion, daniel radcliffe, emma watson, rupert grintHarry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts is streaming on Amazon Prime Video in India. (Photo: HBO Max)

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts director: Eran Creevy, Joe Pearlman, Giorgio Testi
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Mark Williams, Helena Bonham Carter, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Isaacs, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Alfred Enoch, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch and Ralph Fiennes.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts rating: 4.5 stars

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is a reunion special that aims to celebrate the film franchise that captured the imagination of millions around the world. But really, it celebrates the power of stories and shared experiences of vicariously inhabiting such detailed fictional worlds.

Reuniting the cast members, directors and other crew members for one last time, Return to Hogwarts reminds that although nearly ten years have passed since we saw the final Potter movie, the magic endures.

I admit I was dubious about it, thinking this is another attempt by HBO Max to dwell on old TV shows and movies that people love to cash in on to the nostalgia, instead of, you know, making new stuff that’s nice. I found my cynicism melting away less than five minutes into Return to Hogwarts.

The familiarity kicks in the very first shot. It’s the jolly old London. We see the Tower Bridge. The streets are decorated for Christmas and New Year celebrations. There is an old-timey car. And then we see actors being presented with their Hogwarts letters, which are actually invitations for the reunion. It all ends with a shot of Hogwarts. Emma Watson enters the Great Hall and hugs Tom Felton. You know what you are getting into in the first few minutes. From then on, you are either hooked, or not.

I was never a huge Potterhead, but like most 90s kids in India, and around the world, I grew up with it. And I have fond memories of enjoying these movies with my friends and come to appreciate this story more and more over the years. And boy, I was hooked.

Harry Potter fans needed this. The last few years have not been ideal for fans of what is now referred to as the Wizarding World franchise. The first Fantastic Beasts movie, which is the first entry in a prequel series, looked promising, but Rowling and longtime Potter director David Yates bungled up the sequel, which did not please even the fanatics.

Rowling herself has been mired in controversy arising due to her alleged transphobic comments on Twitter and on her blog, and seems to have disillusioned the fandom. Potterheads accuse her of missing the point of her own stories, which are about love, acceptance, and humility.

If you love Harry Potter, you owe yourself to watch Return to Hogwarts. It brings back that warm, reassuring feeling that only those who watched Potter movies for the first time as kids can relate to.

harry potter reunion Harry Potter’s magic still endures. (Photo: Warner Bros)

All the usual suspects are here. Apart from the trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, there are Tom Felton, Mark Williams, Helena Bonham Carter, Gary Oldman, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Isaacs, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Alfred Enoch, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, and more.

Producer David Heyman and directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and David Yates are also an important part of the episode.

Despite a considerably large number of people, everybody gets their due. The focus is naturally the main three, but the most interesting stories often come from others. Perhaps because we already know too much about Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be surprised anymore. It is as much a delight to hear anecdotes from Robbie Coltrane, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton and others.

The narrative is designed to move from movie, which is a nice touch, I thought. It gave a sense of chronology to the reunion, which otherwise would have felt disjointed.

It is hard to critique something like this that is meant to rekindle old memories and extract those happy and bittersweet tears. It’s like Stephen Fry said about PG Wodehouse’s works, “You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection, you just bask in its warmth and splendour.”

That said, Return to Hogwarts passes all the tests. It is snappily paced and a lot of people get to say a lot of stuff in those 100 odd minutes. The editing is superb, and clearly a lot of money has been spent here. The production design is excellent and gives a cosy, Christmasy look to the whole thing.

If it can win over a sceptic like me, no Potterhead should not miss Return to Hogwarts.

The last ten minutes of the reunion are shot, scored and edited deliberately to make you shed tears It’s manipulative, of course, and too mawkish but chances are, your eyes will well up anyway.

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