Imagine you entered a pie-eating contest where each pie is richer and more delicious than the previous one. The last pie is baked by Julia Child. Trouble is, at that point you can’t appreciate the subtleties of the crust. You’re just trying to keep the thing down.
This seemed to be what the girls and I were setting ourselves up for. Binge-watching a whole movie franchise had the potential to turn a treat into a torture.
It is theoretically possible to watch all seven of the Harry Potter films in 24 hours — just. But given that we’d already seen the first two, and that one of us was 10 years old (it is ill-advised, if not actually illegal, to keep a 10-year-old awake for 24 hours) we decided to start at number three — Harry Potter and the The Prisoner of Azkaban.
At 8am on a Thursday morning over the Christmas holidays, we pushed play. By the time the credits rolled on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, it was 1:30 am. Granted, we did take a couple of breaks — to walk the dog, make meals, stretch. One kid had a snooze between films five and six. The breaks pushed back the finish line, and broke the spell of the vivid and continuous dream, but such are the accommodations of binge-watching en famille. A full day is just too long to sit.
The last film in the series is spectacular. It is a Julia Childs pie. But it is really two films in one – close to five hours in total. The final war scene lasts longer than some actual wars. By this point one kid had bailed (not entirely her choice – it’s PG 14 and contains a lot to trouble a 10-year-old mind already weakened by sleep deprivation). The two of us remaining were feeling we’d been through the wars ourselves. After 17 ½ hours of watching wizards point wands at each other and bend the laws of the universe, I pointed the remote at the TV and was unsuccessful at turning it off.
The next day Madeline (age 13), Lila (age 10) and I debriefed.
Dad: So what’s the verdict? Was that fun?
Lila and Madeline: Yes!
Dad: Let’s talk about the way we did this – stringing them all together. What did you like?
Madeline: Watching the kids grow up.
Dad: True enough. It was like watching popcorn pop. In number four I thought, whoa: Ron’s beefed up.
Lila: “Flabbed up” more like it.
Dad: I feel like Harry took a little longer to pop. Maybe not till the fifth one.
Madeline: That’s when he finally got good hair.
Dad: Who was the best actor?
Mad: I say Snape. You know, Alan Rickman didn’t read the books before he made the movies. He just read the scripts. He didn’t want to know about what wasn’t in there.
Dad: Among the kids, who impressed you most?
Madeline: Hermione became a really accomplished actor. But I think maybe Harry improved the most. Cuz, he was starting at zero, right? Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t an actor. He was just a kid they found in a movie theatre. The boy playing Draco actually auditioned to be Harry. He had more experience but not the right look.
Dad: You know a little too much. Girls, could you detect a difference in the feel of the movies, one to the next, as different directors did them?
Lila: Some were funnier.
Madeline: Some were scarier.
Dad: Agreed. You’ve both read all the books, and now you’ve seen all the movies – or almost, Lila. How do you compare the two experiences?
Madeline: Well, the pace of the movies suits the way my mind works. I’m not that patient. When I read I don’t read every word. That’s why I hate audiobooks; it’s hard for me to slow down that much.
Lila: I like movies. But I like reading too. So…
Dad: …it’s a wash. Mom has a house rule that when there’s a movie that’s based on a book, you have to read the book first – or at least try to read it first. Are you glad you read the books first?
Lila: I liked that I knew when the scary parts were coming. So I could duck under a blanket.
Dad: I noticed both of you sometimes finished Harry’s or Hermione’s sentences.
Lila: [recalling a Hermione barb to Ron] “Just because you have the emotional depth of a teaspoon…”
Dad: Number seven was pretty emotional.
Madeline: Oh my god, I was crying through pretty much the entire movie. Everybody dies.
Dad: Which made you sadder, the books or the films?
Madeline: Well, Rowling uses really good words, which makes you feel things strongly. So maybe the books.
Lila: The books.
Dad: Rowling gave her characters some very cool superpowers. Flying. Time-travel. Invisibility. What superpower would you want if you could only have one?
Lila: I’d want Ron’s superpower. He can eat anything.
Dad: One of my favorite things was the “liquid luck” potion: one sip and everything you try is successful. Ron thinks his drink has been spiked with it before the Quiddich match and he plays brilliantly.
Madeline: Even though there was nothing in the drink at all.
Dad: You know what that’s called? A placebo. That’s the body doing its own magic. Maybe Rowling is telling us we all have more superpowers than we know. We just have to believe…. Lila, any takeaway wisdom for you?
Lila: Nope. Except for ‘Always bring a backup wand.’
Dad: I liked seeing Rowling’s imagination on display. All these ingenious ideas. Like Slughorn’s hourglass – which slows down when the conversation is stimulating and speeds up when it isn’t. I want one of those.
Madeline: I’m actually not sure that was Rowling. It’s not in the books.[Note to self: look this up.]
Dad: I’ve gotta say, it was amazing watching with you girls. It was like going to the opera with the world’s leading authority on that composer. Or seeing a hockey game with Wayne Gretzky. Anything I wanted to know I just asked. Better than Google. That may be what I appreciated most about the experience. That and the exercise game. Big props to you, Mad, for getting us up off our butts. Where’d you find that game, anyway?
Dad: How’d it go again? Whenever Ron says “Bloody hell!” you do …
Lila: …ten jumping jacks.
Dad: Whenever Harry says Voldemort’s name, you do five pushups.
Madeline: Any time someone uses a killing curse, five situps.
Lila: When a ghost talks, five crunches.
Madeline: If Hagrid says, ‘I shouldn’t have said that,” 10 burpees.
Lila: Except he never said that.
Dad: Lucky for us. Burpees are hard.
Madeline: I should mention that at no time did I feel like exercising.
Dad: It’s true you have an amazing capacity to sit. Just like you have an amazing capacity to run around the rest of the year. So maybe a Big Day like this is perfect for a winter-time school break. It’s the well-earned crash.