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April 19, 2010

We Are Wizards

by Franz Patrick


We Are Wizards (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

“We Are Wizards,” directed by Josh Koury, documents how a group of people’s lives have changed since J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” phenomenon rose in popularity. As a fan of the series, I thought I knew what to expect because I have seen documentaries that focus on certain subcultures. In some ways, this movie surprised me because I never knew about the brothers (Paul DeGeorge, Joe DeGeorge) who formed a garage band whose songs referred to things in the Hogwarts universe, Heather Lawver’s struggle with Warner Bros. as well as her disease, Brad Neely’s very funny comics and voice-overs and a family so embedded in rock and roll and the freedom of self-discovering something. But at the same time, it was disappointing because it never really explored any of their stories deep enough. It kept jumping from one group of people to another and it was frustrating because such jumps happened just when it was about to get interesting. Out of everyone, I wanted to know more about Lawver’s amazing story of challenging a massive company and winning–all of which happened when she was fifteen or sixteen years old. I believe her story is the heart of this documentary because it highlighted the power of the fans; the fact that without them, the “Harry Potter” franchise would not be as popular today and therefore Warner Bros. (and other companies) would not be as successful. I liked that the film also included a woman who believed that the books were brainwashing children into believing or dabbling in the occult. Although I may not agree with her at all, the director convinced me that he was not afraid to include all kinds of people in his film. There were also some nice bits about Melissa Anelli, founder of The Leaky Cauldron, how she found her career through the Potter mania and what it all meant to her. There were times when I thought the movie was about to look down on the obsessed fans but it didn’t. While it did acknowledge that some of the fans became obsessed with the books because it served as an escape, it didn’t quite go down that path. I wish it had because the more personal something gets, the more I get engaged. “We Are Wizards” is not a bad documentary but it’s not that good either. It didn’t quite have that power to make the fandom feel universal despite its (attempted) focus on various quirky individuals.

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