Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Forget the Freud-this Potter is better than the first and first-rate fantasy.

When Prof. Dumbledore tells Harry Potter it's not ability that counts but the choices we make, I knew this series had to be more than magical cliffhangers strung together by 3 cute British private school chums. Then magically appeared other themes to me: the importance of loyalty and family, the wages of evil, disdain of class and hierarchies, and respect for worthy elders, among others.

But Chris Columbus's direction of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the sequel to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," still bothers me, as if he figured only MTV quick transitions could please a young audience, with requisite action and constantly ratcheting up special effects and monsters.

Yet credit Columbus for featuring Kenneth Branagh as the foppish celebrity academician, Gilderoy Lockhart, whose lack of in-depth knowledge about his field of expertise, defense against dark arts, is a painful experience for the school chums. Branagh, long disliked in the UK, as Orson Welles was in the US, for bold and brash productions and cocky attitude, parodies himself, making me wish he'd do more films and reconcile with Emma Thompson!

Comforting me in my discomfort over this episodic and slavish-to-the-original adaptation is my sense that author Rowling may have slipped the biggest phallic symbol in film history into the Secret Chamber. Pre-teenage Harry may not be aware he has overcome the monster of puberty, but Rowling and Columbus have a very large serpent slither through tunnels that can only prefigure the maze Harry will encounter when he and Hermione finally get it on. If you don't think she will offer a challenge of monstrous proportions, then you need to return to "Monsters, Inc." for less Freudian fare.

Dumbledore's phoenix rises from its ashes, as expected; the Harry Potter series will rise also, many times over, until the current youthful generation slithers into senility amused by the warning Harry Potter films gave long ago-beware one-eyed monsters.

Forget the Freud-this Potter is better than the first and first-rate fantasy.