The battle between good and evil is never a simple Manichaean struggle. In fact, ugliness may be a virtue and beauty suspect, and what drives the story is that it's hard to tell who's who. Far from being the wild-eyed wacko of the tabloids vivants that broadcast news of his escape, Gary Oldman's Sirius Black is civilized and regretful, a man tortured by his own conscience. Kindly Professor Lupin has his own dark secret as well, and even Ron's pet rat, Scabbers, is not what he seems. Nor, in the end, is Harry's family history, news of which shakes the pedestal on which he's placed his father. I don't know enough about J.K. Rowling's childhood (though I'll wager being born in a place called Chipping Sodbury was enough to cultivate her taste for Dickensian names and places) to tell what makes her cleave so sympathetically to werewolves, jailbirds, hairy giants and Muggle-magician hybrids like Hermione. Like many Brits, Rowling is a committed populist who also never met an underdog she didn't like. In Alfonso Cuarón, for the first time, she has found a soul mate, someone who can speak for the Frankenstein monster in all of us.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was directed by Alfonso Cuarón; written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling; produced by David Heyman, Chris Columbus and Mark Radcliffe; and stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Michael Gambon. Now playing countywide.