To say that the Harry Potter fans documented in We Are Wizards have piggybacked on J.K. Rowling’s success to create their own careers may not be the most generous observation, but it’s true nonetheless. These are not the rabid fans that would dress in costume before camping out in front of bookstores, waiting for the latest book to hit shelves. Rather, these are people so fascinated by the mythos of the Harry Potter world that they’ve chosen their own ways to reinterpret it.
Mocking people who become so consumed by something as inherently geeky as a series of books and movies about a boy wizard is easy enough, and director Koury doesn’t quite avoid that trap. Some of his subjects (particularly the level-headed owner of a Harry Potter fan site) come across as more self-aware than others—but then there are the Wizard Rockers.
For any of you blissfully still unaware of this niche in music, Wizard Rock is a sub-sub-genre that features bands that write and perform Harry Potter–inspired songs. And boy, are there a lot of them. And it’s in capturing several of these live performances from singers ranging from children to grown men that Koury lets down his subjects. Reaction shots of befuddled children listening to an adult man roaring “Grawp” at them in a full-on punk rock performance are always held a beat too long, forcing us to notice their discomfort. And interviews with band Harry and the Potters go on for sometimes an uncomfortably long time, as brothers Joseph and Paul DeGeorge explain how they came to form their wildly popular group in between bouts of the repressed, snorting laugh that has long been the identifying characteristic of an unapologetic nerd.
And though Kouros gives us real heroes like Heather Lawver, a teenager who found a reason to live during a battle between Harry Potter fans and Warner Brothers over the idea of intellectual property, a little too much time is squandered on 7-year-old Darius Wilkins, another Wizard Rocker who has the blank blue stare of a child from Village of the Damned.
Watching scene after scene of him popping up on the screen during an interview with his parents, or screaming lyrics into a microphone during a performance of his band The Hungarian Horntails, is akin to spending the evening with parents who insist on making you sit through their darling child’s violin piece. Darius’ drive to learn and hunger for knowledge is admirable, but at 7 years old he’s hardly interesting enough for all of the attention lavished on him here.
And that’s the thing with Harry Potter: No matter how distorted the franchise may become with merchandising or legal battles or a fan’s reinterpretation, the books have become a part of the cultural landscape, something that’s never really examined in We Are Wizards. A better approach would have been one that focused less on a child’s home movies and performances and more on why he’s on stage singing about an imaginary wizard.
We Are Wizards
Directed by Josh Koury, at Cinema Village, Running Time: 79 min.
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