“Honey, did you do a lot of drugs before we met?”
I am not a Harry Potter fan. I’m just not. I do delve into fantasy now and then – like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings – but it is not my genre of choice. I’m a sci-fi guy. If I do sit down for some fantasy escapism, it’s battles and questing. A coming of age story about magic is not something that usually interests me. Hell, I’ve made it this far in life not knowing anything about Harry Potter other than his name and it somehow involves magic and an owl. Oh, and the word Muggle somehow exists.
So, here is my honest review of only Harry Potter movie I could find online. It turns out, it's actually called, Troll. When the 90's movies came out, I did try and watch one in high school with my then-girlfriend Stephanie. I fell asleep a few minutes in, so my recollection is spotty at best. This original Harry Potter film is a fairly stark departure from those sequels made a decade later.
No one is even British here. I will chalk that up to it being an earlier American production.
Harry Potter and his family move into a new home. We have a typical family: Harry Potter, his dad (also Harry), his mom Anne, and his sister Wendy. There’s an evil troll (Torok) in the house. The troll kidnaps the daughter, Wendy, and takes her place via a magic ring that allows her to blend in. Or, well, not blend in. She kind of goes into a crazy violent mood swing. Right after the troll changes into Wendy, Harry (her brother) asks if she was playing with a dead cat. Sonny Bono is their neighbor for some reason. Harry is the only one who realizes Wendy isn’t Wendy because adults are always idiots in these coming of age movies. Wendy straight up throws him across a room and then he says he just tripped.
Eventually, Harry tries to learn magic from an old lady. We find out there’s convoluted happenings involving trolls, wizards, fairies, and humans. Troll wizard is turning everyone in the building the family lives in into other mythical things, like boogeymen, the creature from the black lagoon, and the spider gremlin. Somehow the troll wizard is turning everything into a lush other world of monsters. Or, well, the troll wizard who is really a fairy is creating a fairy world out of apartments for some reason. Honestly, this seems like a way better place to live than Harry Potter’s boring reality. Isn’t Harry Potter supposed to have a cute girl and a red headed kid as friends? Where are they? Where’s the big, bearded guy? No idea.
Harry Potter eventually saves the day. His sister is in a weird Sleeping Beauty-esque casket thing. The troll wizard dies. Of course it has one of THOSE endings… Is the evil troll wizard really dead? The audience doesn’t care, and neither do I. I guess he comes back as a guy with no nose or something in the later movies. I’m a little hazy on the details. I’ve had a couple of beers.
Voldemort! That’s the name of the bad guy according to Wikipedia. He must show up once Harry Potter gets to magic school, because here we only get Torok the wizard troll. Did Voldemort also befriend a dwarf while pretending to be a little girl?
The highlight for me is probably Sonny Bono asking a prostitute if sex with him is what she expected and then immediately asking her to make him pancakes. Some scenes are genuinely memorable, such as the ball bouncing down the stairs or the weird ass mushroom puppet showing up. That dude is cute.
Most of the acting is passable but not particularly great. The boy who plays Harry Potter (Noah Hathaway) isn’t very good, but the girl (Jenny Beck) who plays Wendy is surprisingly enjoyable as an evil jerk. Scratch that. Somehow this is the same boy who played Atreyu. He was awesome there but subpar here. You will also find the aforementioned Sonny Bonny, Frank Welker as the voice of the troll, and a surprisingly sexy appearance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus as wood nymph.
One highlight is the puppetry work. The practical effects are really quite good. Compared to some other low budget fantasy films from the 80’s, the character work is good. I’ve seen some bad, bad movies like Troll 2. At least here the trolls and boogeymen or whatever have moment and depth and a snappy music number.
The movie is kind of gray and dark, but not in a horror movie sense. It almost feels as if they just couldn’t afford lighting on set and used natural light, even in dark sets. Adding to the cheapness is a distinct lack of wide shots. Everyone is medium shots with a few close ups, probably to hide the inability to afford or unwillingness to acquire landscapes. This really would’ve helped to see a large, more lived in forest in some of the magically nymph sequences. Some of the staging is also confusing, with poorly placed people in frame. This is hard to really discuss without showing the scenes I mean, but imagine people standing behind objects or having the bodies cut off in bizarre ways. Some more music to score the entire movie may have helped. The cheapness really came to the forefront in the quiet, unscored moments throughout the movie.
And don’t get me started on the portrait. It has to be the crappiest painting I have seen in a major motion picture since the stick drawing in Not Another Teen Movie. Ugh.
I’ve got to be honest. This movie really entertained me but it was terrible. I mean, it was barely comprehensible crap. Everyone loves THESE Harry Potter movies? Really? Maybe I missed something. Maybe it’s because this is the first movie from the 80’s and everyone knows the later movies? I don’t know. I also didn’t read the book, so maybe it goes more into the history of Galwyn the mushroom – formerly a fairy - and some of the other side characters, and fleshes them out. I really found this plot a little too complex and somehow still lacking. I wish the audience knew how the magic worked.
I can’t really recommend this Harry Potter film. It’s pretty much garbage. Entertaining garbage, but garbage. I mean, it’s got Harry Potter. It has magic. It has trolls. So, what am I missing that everyone else sees? Where was the butter beer or Snape or the owl or British people? I am now even more confused by the Harry Potter fandom. Like, what do the “houses” mean? When does Harry get to magic school? Is that in the next movie?
Honestly, I have no interest in seeing another one so I will stop here.
Was this Harry Potter movie good? No. Will I be going to the Harry Potter amusement park now? No thanks. The entire thing was kind of meh, if a bit entertaining, and in no way was this deserving of the 7 or however many sequels this thing got. Even for a mid-80’s children’s movie, this was poor filmmaking.
Verdict: Skip the first Harry Potter movie that was inexplicably titled “Troll.”