Harry Potter fans will find much to admire in the second instalment from Hogwarts. The less committed won't be as spellbound, though.

Director Chris Columbus bows out of the "Harry Potter" franchise with a competent, workmanlike effort that retells JK Rowling's plot but fails to capture the novel's spirit or essence.

The second film in the cinematic cash cow sees Hogwarts students Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint), and Hermione (Watson) try to uncover the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets.

As a series of students become petrified - turned to stone, that is, although very young audience members might find themselves equally scared by some intense set-pieces - everyone wants to know who's leaving mysterious messages about the imminent arrival of the "heir of Slytherin".

As panic starts to spread, the wand of suspicion points directly in Harry's direction...

In fairness to Columbus, the special effects here will have you reclining in your seat, admiring the spectacle. Unfortunately, the film's pedestrian pacing won't get you on the edge of it.

As with "Philosopher's Stone", the main pleasure comes from the all-star adult cast: Kenneth Branagh is note-perfect as vain Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart, while Jason Isaacs camps it up to great effect as the villainous Lucius Malfoy.

Another success comes with the CG Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones), a self-flagellating elf whose attempts to help Harry only hinder.

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