Cars fly, trees fight back and a mysterious house-elf comes to warn Harry at the start of the second year of his amazing journey into the world of wizardry. This year at Hogwarts, spiders talk, letters scold and Harry's own unsettling ability to speak to snakes turns his friends against him.

1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2016 - 9:31 AM

Young Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, is a wizard with, what we're led to believe, a significant destiny. His home life with his Aunt, Fiona Shaw, and Uncle, Richard Griffiths, is pretty grim so he's looking forward to returning to Hogwarts School where he's made friends with Ron, Rupert Grint, and Hermione, Emma Watson, whom he strangely hasn't heard from during the holidays. A funny little house elf called Dobby arrives to warn him about returning to Hogwarts but he's undeterred and when he's rescued by Ron in a flyaway car they all become immersed in yet another mystery at the school: who is writing ominous messages about The Chamber of Secrets on the walls in blood and is the new schoolmaster Gilderoy Lockhart, Kenneth Branagh, who teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts going to be any help at all?

For lovers of the Harry Potter books this film will deliver pretty much as expected. But Chris Columbus' rather plodding direction doesn't make it soar, and his reliance on digital special effects tends to overwhelm the narrative. Alan Rickman looks bored reprising his minimal role of Professor Snape and I must admit I've never been a fan of the work of the three young leads. However, Kenneth Branagh lifts the film playing Lockhart as a puffed up wizard on the make. I think we have to look forward to Alfonso Cuaron directing the next one in the series.