The U-Bend #4: Head Games

by Andrew Lee and Robert Lanto

“What ‘choo you looking at?”

-Stan Shunpike (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

We loved the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. It was well thought out, had excellent pacing, and was fun and exciting. We had a good time watching it, and mostly enjoyed everything in the film. Well, there is an exception; we hated the shrunken head. There’s a difference between adding a line here, changing a scene there and altering a character slightly, to throwing in new characters for the sheer pleasure of it. To us the shrunken head represents all that is bad with ‘spicing up’ scenes. And trust us, we know what happens when you try and spice things up.

Look at Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie. What would seemingly be an easy logical extension of the Philosopher’s Stone movie, instead we end up with the let’s all hug Hagrid scene (we all love Hagrid). What was Steve Kloves smoking when he came up with that new and ‘improved’ ending for Chamber of Secrets? That was the biggest piece of #^%@ we’ve seen since the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones love scenes (all of them). At least in Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson changed the romantic lines from English to Elvish to make them sound less corny, while in Chamber of Secrets we get the ‘I love Hagrid’ jamboree. That was so lame that Andrew nearly wanted to bang his head on the seat in front of him. The rest of the movie was so well done it was unfortunate that this one scene had us wondering if all the test audiences were bribed into saying the entire movie was great.

Now onto the shrunken head. While not as annoying or nerve racking as the Hagrid love-fest, it did get to us. It is like someone decided that the Knight Bus scene wasn’t full of things for the viewers to see and that adding a talking-back, ‘funny,’ shrunken head seemed like a good addition. To us, it’s about as funny as Jar Jar Binks juggling containers in a Tatooine droid shop (oh wait). It’s an unnecessary addition to the movie, which detracts from the film’s quality. Look at the part with the shrunken head’s countdown while waiting for an old lady to cross the street. It was excruciatingly bad.

But what should they have done instead? Having Ernie and Stan trading jabs at each other would have been nice. The wizarding world is always filled with oddballs, yet we have yet to see a good comedy duo (okay the Weasley twins but bare with us). Or add in a bit more explanation of what’s going on about Sirius Black. Perhaps having Harry realize that he might not be allowed back in school (and contemplating his life on the run), or what about the part where Harry should pay for his ticket!?

Look, we’d say they added it in for the younger children, but Warner Brothers should realize that it’s been four years since the first movie. In that time, many of the fans have seen the movie and aged. We’re all a little older and a little wiser (well most of us). Sure there are always new children being introduced to the Harry Potter movies, but trying to get a few cheap laughs is not the way to do it. Dobby and Gollum worked because they didn’t try to be overly funny. They just had quirks that made them funny, the shrunken head tries to make an amusing scene funnier, but in our opinion) it shouldn’t have made the cut at the end of the day.

Alas, the head is there and I guess we’ll probably not see it again. We’re not big fans of the shrunken head, but then again we might be wrong. Perhaps someday we’ll realize the wisdom of adding the shrunken head in the Knight Bus scene. Perhaps, we’ll realize that we needed the additional character commentary for the scene. And perhaps one day we’ll say George Lucas wrote the greatest love movie ever.