Review: ‘Harry Potter’ 20th Anniversary Special Is Pure Magic

Review: ‘Harry Potter’ 20th Anniversary Special Is Pure Magic

The Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts special that debuted this weekend on HBO Max is pure magic. I say that as someone who devoured the books, loved the films, interviewed the actors many times and makes frequent pilgrimages to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s theme parks in Orlando. Fla.

It’s hard to believe there could be anything fresh left to say about the series of eight British blockbusters and, yet, this 2-hour program is absolutely riveting.

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 While the treasure trove of behind-the-scenes footage is loads of fun, the heart of the special is watching former child stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint offer their candid and emotional insights on their extraordinary work experiences, literally growing up on camera and forming close-knit friendships that have endured even after the cameras stopped rolling. 

The reunited actors come across as sincerely grateful for their involvement in an epic project that has brought joy to audiences around the world and made outsiders feel like there is a community where they belong. They also speak to each other with great affection, ease and humor.  

“It always had to end at some point. We were never going to be doing this forever,” acknowledged Grint, who played Ron Weasley. Watson, who played Hermione Granger, fought back tears as she told Grint he was a “pillar” of her life. “We grew up together,” Grint replied, also clearly emotional. “We’re family. We always will be. Even though we don’t see each other all the time. It’s a strong bond and we will always be part of each other’s lives.

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” “I love you,” he said, as Watson nodded and hugged him. After a beat, Grint added, “as a friend,” prompting them both to dissolve into laughter.

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Perhaps most poignant is hearing the trio describe what the films and their legions of fans have meant to them, now that they are in their 30s. “Every part of my life is connected to Potter. When I meet people – who it’s a really important part of their life or the books or the films were in some way a part of their identity – it just makes you really proud,” said Radcliffe, who played Harry. 

Grint, Watson and Radcliffe also honored the renowned artists like Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory, John Hurt and Richard Griffiths, who helped shape them as actors, but died since filming their iconic roles in the franchise.  

Shot on some of the movies’ lavish Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sets, the special has no intrusive on-screen moderator, leaving the former cast-mates and various directors to ask each other questions. It gives the wonderful impression that the viewer has been invited into an intimate family reunion to watch old home movies and reminisce.     

Other Harry Potter veterans who sat for new interviews were Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter and Toby Jones. J.K. Rowling, who penned the fantasy novels on which the films are based, is seen in archival footage talking about watching her stories come to life on the silver screen.

Here’s the trailer.

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