Considering the raging hormones, mood swings and the testing of boundaries associated with the teen years, it isn't surprising that adults don't view the arrival of adolescence with a great deal of enthusiasm, particularly if they're a parent of one of them. Yet, those very elements are what make the fourth installment of the venerable "Harry Potter" series so winning.
Yes, after previously dealing with "The Prisoner of Azkaban," the title character and his friends have become teenagers in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." A tad darker, more violent and clearly more hormonal than the previous entries (but surprisingly not much longer considering that J.K. Rowling's source novel was bigger than some cities' phone books), the film continues the saga of Potter and his dealing with the growing malevolence in this magical world.
The main plot element -- a perilous, multi-event magic tournament featuring competitors from different schools of wizardry -- serves up various adventures and harrowing sequences that come off as a bit more intense than with the previous works. Of course, returning screenwriter Steve Kloves' truncated adaptation of Rowling's work uses that to further Harry's involvement with the growing dangers lurking about Hogwarts including the resurrection of the eternal baddie Voldemort (this time played by a barely identifiable Ralph Fiennes).
But it's the teen angst, young love and other such elements that make the film agreeable and more accessible than its predecessors. With everyone now quite comfortable in their characters, that allows the returning performers -- Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson -- to have fun in their parts. With childhood friendship turning to romantic feelings for others (within and outside that group) that leads to some charming moments watching the characters grow and go through those all too familiar teenage throes.
Accordingly, and under the direction of Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Donnie Brasco") there's lots of related humor, but the funny business isn't limited to just that. Although he doesn't get a lot of screen time here, Alan Rickman is still a blast to watch with his deadpan and irritated reactions to his students. And the new character played by Brendan Gleeson also generates some amusing moments as the teacher with a large, mechanical eye (with a mind of its own) that keeps an eye and then some on everyone and everything.
Aside from those banished in the last film and the addition of a few other new characters (including Miranda Richardson playing a tabloid type reporter with a magical writing quill), the rest of the cast returns to reprise their roles. While their parts vary in terms of material with which to work, they're like family or at least a comfortable pair of slippers by now to most viewers.
As was the case in the previous installments (and other "event" films), the special effects are an added treat, especially in a sequence where a fire-breathing dragon is after Harry in the first segment of the tournament. Newell, who follows Alfonso Cuaron and Chris Columbus in the director's chair, keeps things moving at a brisk pace and I never found myself antsy despite the 160-some minute runtime. And while the teen romance element may seem to thwart the otherwise speedy flow (particularly in a ball sequence), that's what gives the film its heart, charm and good humor.
Since it's really just a continuation of the story started back in 2001 and is a middle installment of Rowling's overall master plan, the tension and suspense are amusement park grade quality at best (as we assume nothing's going to happen to any of the major characters this time around). That prevents it from being a truly great piece of work, but for fans of the books and movie adaptations, there's plenty here that's engaging, entertaining and enjoyable.