Robbie Coltrane is anxious. "I've had visions of being chased by millions of children who thought I got it wrong," says Coltrane, the Scottish comic who plays the giant groundskeeper, Hagrid, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. "They're chasing me up Fifth Avenue. 'There's the guy who ruined Hagrid! Let's get him!'"
Memo to Coltrane: I have seen Harry Potter, and there's no reason for you to hire bodyguards. When the film opens on Nov. 16, lovers of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series who have worried about what Hollywood had in store for the sacred text will be relieved to see that Coltrane's Hagrid bears an impressive resemblance to the gentle giant Rowling described in the first volume: He's a lovable lug--funny and slightly sad--with "long tangles of bushy black hair and...hands the size of trash can lids." And just as he does in the book, he makes his entrance on a flying motorcycle, with a baby in his "vast, muscular arms." Harry has arrived, and he has arrived in good health.
I flew to London and saw the film two weeks ago, before any critics (including TIME's) were allowed to see and review it. Now it can be told: with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone--the first film in what Warner Bros. hopes will be a long and profitable franchise--director Chris Columbus has bravely gone toe to toe with the imaginations of readers who have purchased 100 million Potter books and made the boy wizard one of the most beloved figures in literary history. (The author, once a struggling single mom in Edinburgh, Scotland, has become an international celebrity since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as the book is known in Britain, was published there four years ago.) The big-screen adaptation is a film of such eye-popping grandeur, dazzling special effects and sumptuous production values that you may not notice right away that supporting characters like Peeves, a troublesome ghost, and Piers, a troublesome boy, have been given the heave-ho.
But these visuals serve what is essentially a greatest-hits compilation of the book itself, from the snake that winks at Harry in the zoo to the owls that swoop through his school, Hogwarts, dropping mail on the magically gifted boys and girls; from Hogwarts' Great Hall with its soaring night-sky ceiling to the cavernous vaults and Munchkin-size goblins working in Gringotts bank (keep an eye out for Verne Troyer, who played Mini-Me in the 1999 Austin Powers sequel); from the wizard's version of chess, in which queens and knights come alive and beat each other senseless, to the Quidditch field, where young witches and wizards on broomsticks fly through the air playing a magical hybrid of basketball and soccer; from Hagrid's baby dragon to the 12-ft.-tall mountain troll (both computer generated), who wreaks havoc in the girls' rest room; from the teetering magic shops of Diagon Alley to the secret Track 9 3/4, where students board the train to Hogwarts.