This was an interesting film. It's a shame it wasn't afforded better direction.
It has most everything you need for a good documentary: a subject a lot of people are interested in, some stories to tell, and extremely interesting characters. My problem with the film was that it just seemed to have no clear direction...as if the makers weren't quite sure where they wanted to go with it...or perhaps even what movie they were making.
It basically follows a small group of some (apparently) popular musical groups in the underground Harry Potter film community. You get to hear some of their back story as to how they formed their acts and started playing shows. But it's not a band documentary. We're also told snippets of stories from the girl who founded the website "potterwar.org", a call for a worldwide boycott of all things Harry Potter, other than the books. (This was in response to copyright threats Warner Bros. made against fan websites). We hear from Brad Neely, a guy who gained popularity when he recorded his own audio track synced to the first Harry Potter movie. So the film jumps from the bands to these two, and we hear a little about how intellectual monopoly laws impeded fans from celebrating the characters they loved, but this is not an anti-copyright film. We hear from a woman who ran the major Harry Potter news website and how it landed her a book deal.
We also hear from a woman who made a documentary of her own warning of the dangers the Harry Potter series poses due to its "making innocent" the dangerous world of the occult. This was the only anti-Harry Potter aspect of the film, and the only thing I can figure is this was thrown in there to offer some sort of "other side of the story", but it just ended up feeling weird and out of place. It's not as if the film were making some philosophical or political case, or taking a stand on some issue. It was a film about Harry Potter fans. I have no idea why the filmmakers would have thought they needed to include a "dissenting" point of view.
And overall that's largely how the film felt. It was quite inchoate and seemed to never really know what it was trying to be, and because of this lack of purpose or direction it became slow and boring in some places. As intriguing as it sounds to be able to get into the world of such hardcore fanatics, and as entertaining as it was at times, there were also points at which I was left asking myself "why am I watching this?" Especially in the beginning of the film before I was largely invested, I was extremely close to just turning it off.
I'd say the middle third of it was certainly the most satisfying piece of the film, but obviously the viewer has to be willing enough to sit through the beginning that starts so slowly and doesn't offer any promise in the way of letting you know it's planning on going anywhere. And by the third portion of the film, again it seems like the filmmakers lost any sense of what they were trying to capture and it seemed like they were just out of things to say, and without a clear direction or story arc from the beginning, there was no real way to close out the film.
On the whole I enjoyed the film, if nothing else than for the few laughs the featured characters offered, and it was all due to the natural candid moments, and just how genuinely funny they are. But maybe I'm just a glass is half full kind of guy, because as this overall critical review shows, there wasn't much redeeming about the film.
If you love Harry Potter I don't think it will disappoint you to the point that you'll wish you hadn't seen it, but it's also not necessarily a MUST SEE in the HP canon. But then again, I guess for the hardcore fans, everything Harry Potter is a "must see". As an outsider who knows very little of the series (I've seen one movie and read one book) it was neat to see this fan culture that you always knew existed, but never really got any exposure to.
I gave it a 5 out 10.