Picks and Pans Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

updated 11/28/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon

[STARS 3.5]

Just as male critics reviewing 1980's Blue Lagoon had to rein in their enthusiasm for an adolescent Brooke Shields, it would be unseemly for me to drool over Radcliffe, now 16. Let's just put it this way: The boy is growing up nicely. When he removes his shirt in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we're talking, if not beefcake, at least calfcake.

Even better, it is now apparent that he and his onscreen buddies Grint and Watson are turning into accomplished young actors. In this fourth and best Harry Potter film yet, Harry (Radcliffe) and his loyal companions once more find themselves caught up in intrigue and enchantment at Hogwarts, that prestigious place of learning for fledgling wizards. This time out, Harry is coping with nightmares and competing in a dangerous tournament.

What makes this Harry, rousingly directed by Mike Newell (Mona Lisa Smile), so memorable is that Harry and his friends are now suffering the normal pangs of adolescence (first love, social unease, wardrobe anxiety, etc.) even as Harry battles ever more terrifying and powerful enemies. The special effects are extraordinary; watch how real it looks when a dragon scrabbles across a roof, scattering shingles. Finally, Goblet again serves up a delicious who's who of British acting, with hilarious contributions from newcomers Brendan Gleeson as instructor Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Miranda Richardson as nosy reporter Rita Skeeter. (Note: Goblet will scare kids too young to have read the Harry books for themselves.) (PG-13)

DRAMA

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