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'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'

With her fourth Harry Potter book, J. K. Rowling took a decidedly darker turn. The evil Voldemort finally shows up in the flesh, with murder and gothic gore figuring into the process. It's a scary and exciting ending, upping the ante of the whole series.

We wondered how appropriate it would be for our children, both read to them and now on the screen. But there would have been tantrums had some been allowed to go while others weren't, so we caved, and off the whole family went.

Yes, it had scary parts. Lila, 9, said the climactic Voldemort scene was the scariest. Iris, 6, felt the maze scene was worst, and that the Dark Lord wasn't so bad. Oscar, 3, was terrified by an underwater scene with creepy mer-people and octopi. But it was nothing they couldn't handle.

Along the way, it was slam-bang folderol, from an opening send-up of big-league sports, to a fabulous chase scene with a dragon, and a gaggle of outstanding Brits hamming it up. Oscar's favorite scene was a big fire (you know boys and destruction). Lila and Iris liked Harry and Moaning Mrytle in a bathtub.

I got off on the big hams. To the already outstanding Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman, and Jason Issacs, this movie adds Miranda Richardson, Brendan Gleeson (who steals scene after scene), and Ralph Fiennes as he-who-must not be named. They all rock.

At 700 pages, this is the most bloated of Rowling's books, and much of what's been left out we didn't miss. There are some strange jumps, and as usual the development of the relationships between Harry, Hermione, and Ron get short-changed, but who cares? It's entertainment crack, just like the books, leaving you clamoring for more.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) is playing at Brockport Strand, Canandaigua Theatres, Culver Ridge 16, Geneseo Theatres, Greece Ridge 12, Henrietta 18, IMAX, Pittsford Cinema, and Tinseltown.

--- Adam Wilcox

Go ahead and roam

Just because you can't afford Club Med doesn't mean you have to be stuck at home until you're an empty nester.

Take a fearless inventory of your friends. Especially the ones from college that cleaned up good. If you're exchanging holiday cards 10 or more years after graduation, that's a de facto offer to put you up. I bet some of them have real nice floors just waiting for a sleeping bag. Or four. Remember to pack the Advil and you'll be fine.

Find a place you can drive to in eight hours or less, then pile in. If the kids act up, tell them next time, you're going to Vegas and leaving them with the most reprehensible relative you can think of. Works every time.

Before you go, find out what you can do for cheap by visiting Web sites, perusing your library's travel section, and requesting info from the local visitors' bureau. On certain days, some New York City museums are free, including the Museum of Modern Art. The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. are always free. So is entry to Gettysburg National Park.

Once you arrive, avail yourself of the concierge service. We were saved from lunch at McDonalds by our New York City host who suggested pork buns for 70 cents each at a Chinese Bakery.

Remember to tip your concierge. Suggestions include white hots and lilac bushes. Or maybe a nice box of holiday cards from the Memorial Art Gallery.

--- Linda Kostin (www.junkstorecowgirl.com)