Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Review

Welcome back to the wizarding world. For those that lack personalities, they’ll never have left the grounds of Hogwarts. Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts will be desperately clamoured for by those that love inoffensive content. The series itself is a commonplace classic, a strong series of films that have captured the hearts and minds of a generation. But all things must pass, and Harry Potter has too. A pocket of actors, producers and creatives come together to celebrate the twentieth anniversary under documentary directors Eran Creevy, Gorgio Testi and Joe Pearlman to provide a definitely earnest HBO exclusive, and not some inflated cash cow after testing for Friends: The Reunion proved successful.  

Omissions are always a sore thumb and Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts manages that inevitable hurdle as best it can. Christopher Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter features, returns. From there, though, audiences are left to their own devices when hoping for factoids in the director’s chair. David Yates and Alfonso Cuarón appear, but have better things to do. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint feature, but David Thewlis and Maggie Smith are absent. At the very least, those that do arrive are open to discussing the making of the films. The pacing may be all over the place, but at least they talk of the films. Leaping from the relationship between one actor and another to the feeling on set for a variety of up-and-coming performers is neat, but paced horribly.  

Those that do return are not exactly inspired, electric interviewees. They fumble through some awfully staged moments that look like natural, flowing banter yet conveniently relay all the scenes assembled in the press package for Creevy, Testi and Pearlman to sift through. Revisiting a set here or a bit of footage there, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts slides into place without much deviation from what will make fans of the series tick. Brief soundbites that can be replayed over and over again when the film is cut into bitesize portions for social media, conversations that linger a little too long and others that are abruptly cut off. It feels sluggish. Even fans of the series may have trouble engaging with the tired sounds of actors whose career-high has been fielding Q&As, trying to move themselves up the next rung of the Hollywood ladder.  

For those that are crazy about Harry Potter, then Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts will fill the void of new Potter content. But anyone with interests beyond the wizarding world and not a complete desire to pick through all the nooks and crevices of the behind-the-scenes footage will be lost or worse, bored. Clips of the movies intercut with empty interviews and discussions are the bread and butter of this return to Hogwarts. Uninspired and vaguely charming at the best of times, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts would have worked better as a general documentary. But then the opportunity to make those moments happen, those moments where fans can actually sift through the magic that formed the nostalgic memories that they cling so dearly to, would ruin their relationship with the film. Harry Potter still has that magic, even if there are those out there still trying to beat the dead horse.   

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