Harry's back: But magic's getting old

In addition to facing the three tasks of the Triwizard Tournament, the revived Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), and a gossipy tabloid reporter (Miranda Richardson) who keeps insisting he's 12, 14-year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is up against something even more fearsome: adolescence.

But the worst enemy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one that robs you of your faith in your own eyes: CGI. There's hardly a shot in the film that doesn't appear to employ Computer Generated Imagery. It's wonderful stuff for the most part, but adds up to overkill. After a point. it doesn't enhance the movie– it takes it over.

Sure, it's the best way to show dragons, sea creatures, and the Quidditch World Cup; but do all the sets, scenery, and crowds have to look as if they're created in a computer?

Series screenwriter Steve Kloves had a 734-page J.K. Rowling novel to pare down to a script of about 150 pages. Director Mike Newell still allows some breathing room between incidents, so a lot of sequences have a compressed feeling. With the introduction of several new characters, some of the old ones are reduced to cameo appearances to remind us they're still around.

Harry dreams that Lord Voldemort, who killed his parents 13 years ago, is back and up to no good. Then Voldemort's forces, the Death Eaters, destroy the campground at the Quidditch World Cup, which Harry is attending with the Weasleys and some others.

Back at Hogwarts for their fourth year, Harry and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) have an unspoken rivalry over Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), who is evolving faster than the boys. When Harry gets interested in an Asian girl, Cho (Katie Leung), Ron has only his own shyness to contend with, but that's a formidable obstacle. He and Harry have a falling-out, then get back together.

Harry is mysteriously chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament with the standard-bearers from Hogwarts (Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory), Durmstrang (Stanislav Ianevski as Viktor Krum), and Beauxbatons (Clémence Poésy as Fleur Delacour), even though he didn't enter his name and isn't old enough, according to the rules. The foreigners remain foreign to us because there isn't time to develop their characters.

The newbie with the most screen time is Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

The Tournament is a weird triathlon that begins with stealing an egg from a dragon, then is interrupted for the Yule Ball, the event that cues most of the adolescent angst over finding dates.

In the second challenge each person must recover something that's been stolen from him and placed at the bottom of Black Lake. His friend Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) gets Harry some gillyweed that turns him amphibian so he can breathe underwater. (I had some weed once that made me think I could breathe underwater, but that's another story.)

The third and final task is a race through a living maze to retrieve the Triwizard Cup. That leads directly to a confrontation with Lord Valdemort (whose nose appears to be blurred out, like naughty bits on network TV), the unveiling of a surprise (?) villain, and the end of the school year.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has the feel of Cliff's Notes or a package tour covering seven countries in ten days. Diehard fans will still love it, and it will make a gazillion dollars, and parents will ignore the PG-13 rating because their kids will report them for abuse if they don't let them see this movie.

All that doesn't make it good, although in fact it's not bad. But you'll enjoy it more if your expectations aren't too high.