Director: Mike Newell
Screenplay: Steven Kloves, based on the book by J.K. Rowling
Country: United States/United Kingdom
MPAA rating: PG-13
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Michael Gambin (Albus Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor Moody), Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory), Stanislav Ianevski (Viktor Krum), Katie Leung (Cho Chang)
Synopsis: Teenage wizard Harry Potter is submitted to take part in a tournament beyond his skills as his nemesis, you-know-who, gains power. The major characters are growing up and wrestling with the emotional turmoil of adolescence.
Limited spoilers ahead
The book being well known to almost all who would watch the film, the risk of spoilers is low. However, I do claim an advantage in not having read the book and having seen the three preceding films in the series so I'm describing the film as it was presented to the public without being influenced by what it "should" have been like.
After an ominous beginning with nightmares and a terrorist-like attack on a major public event, Harry's name is entered into the Goblet of Fire, a magical contraption similar to the Sorting Hat, which decides who participates in a potentially deadly competition for seventeen year old wizards. Being outclassed and underqualified for the challenges, he will have to depend on much more than luck and the small set of spells he usually conveniently learns in class.
During the three challenges that make up the Tri-Wizard Tournament (or rather Quad-Wizard, as the fickle finger of fate and the long hand of Harry's enemies make it be), Harry has to display serious endurance and character as he is confronted with choices that can deeply affect both the outcome of the competition and his conscience. The other Hogwarts representative, Cedric Diggory, and Harry work together more than once and Diggory is remorselessly sacrificed by the author. The role of Severus Snape is limited while that of Albus Dumbledore is prominent.
Hermione has a crush on the Slavic good looks of quidditch star Viktor Krum, who represents his school in the tournament, and, being the female lead, is at the centre of a lot of misunderstanding. Harry and Ron fumble their way through (and eventually blow) a double date. By the end of the film, however, we've seen a lot more cooperation and emotional engagement of the characters. Teenage quarrels are entered into and are resolved both within the main plotline and outside it. Our heroes are growing up fast.
I found Goblet of Fire to be far superior to the first three Harry Potter films. Characters are portrayed more realistically and are as awkward with budding love as they are confident with magic. Goblet, despite being much darker and deeper, also has more funny and interesting situational comic relief, including the delightfully naughty bathtub scene with a saucy Moaning Myrtle. There are also fewer easy answers and solutions, which makes it more suspenseful and attractive. It's indicative that the buzz of a packed cinema half full of kids had completely died down by the last quarter of the film. I don't throw the word "riveting" around lightly but it's fitting. This film has more heartstoppers and moral dilemmas than the previous three put together.
On a technical level the film stands very well. The special effects are at least as good as the other films, while the good directing renders the story more intensely and powerfully. The cinematography as well as the sets tend to be more grandiose and natural, and the indoor sets are danker and reinforce the notion (well, the truth) that the British are unaware of the concept of heating their living space. The acting of the young stars has also improved but one must note that some, especially Daniel Radcliffe, are outgrowing their roles and will probably have to be replaced for the next installation.
Although (or perhaps because) I'm not a Harry Potter fan--I've seen all four films because of other people rather than on my own initiative--I can recommend this film to a wider audience than the Harry Potter crowd. It stands alone quite well and can be watched and enjoyed without a knowledge of the book or the remainder of the series. Go see it. Though the book may have been rated worse than its predecessors, I think the hype over the film is comparatively justified this time. Note that the PG-13 rating is justified. I'd think twice about taking a six-year old to see it. Your mileage, of course, may vary but I got some pretty good mileage out of this film.
Film critic style rating, stars'n'all: * * * * (4/5 stars)