One of those films married so closely to a time period, to my youth, to nostalgia, to judge at a distance.
The film has plenty of pacing issues (adapting books extremely closely tends to make for oddly-paced films) and acting issues (the majority of the kids ended up fitting well in later films, but Rupert Grint is the only one of the main three doing anything approaching natural work here), but the charm and sense of magic director Chris Columbus manages to create surpass those issues.
John Williams’ score is absolutely fantastic, and he creates some of his most memorable cues here. Later composers for the series drew heavily from his motifs, for good reason – they’re brilliant, particularly the main theme (or Hedwig’s theme, as it was referred to officially back then), and the family/friendship theme.
The effects aren’t too dated, not a load of CGI to look aged here – that’s much more prevalent in the second film!
The casting of the kids ended up well in later films, for the most part, but the casting of the adults was perfect from the get-go. While Michael Gambon does some real good work as Dumbledore in the later films, he never quite managed the immense sense of warmth and magic that Richard Harris achieved as Dumbledore. Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, and Alan Rickman embody their characters perfectly.
A delightful children’s fantasy film, oozing with a sense of magic, warmth, adventure, and imagination. A very worthy start to such a successful series. I give it three wands, and a golden snitch.