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Streaming reviews: Harry Potter reunion conjures up a festival of mutual backslapping

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Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe in the back-slapping 'Return to Hogwarts'

Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe in the back-slapping 'Return to Hogwarts'

From left, Sophie Thatcher, Kevin Alves, and Jasmin Savoy Brown in 'Yellowjackets'

From left, Sophie Thatcher, Kevin Alves, and Jasmin Savoy Brown in 'Yellowjackets'

The Friends reunion

The Friends reunion

The cast of the Fresh Prince reunited

The cast of the Fresh Prince reunited

The Kardashians hadn't gone away, you know

The Kardashians hadn't gone away, you know

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Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe in the back-slapping 'Return to Hogwarts'

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts

Sky Max and NOW

Yellowjackets

Sky Atlantic and NOW

The reports screamed of JK Rowling being ‘snubbed’ by the makers of the new Harry Potter reunion – but it turns out that, as with Kim Cattrall in the Sex and the City reboot, she has merely been ‘worked around’.

Rowling does indeed appear briefly in the lengthy special (in clips which were “filmed in 2019”), and the reunited cast makes respectful noises about her – but it’s clear that acknowledging her existence is about as far as they are willing to go.

This is a shame because, whatever your take on Rowling’s views on trans issues (and for the record I completely disagree with them), she surely – if given the time and space – would have more insight into the era-defining phenomenon that was Harry Potter than offered by this festival of mutual backslapping and luvvie gushing.

Daniel Radcliffe, who, of course, played Harry, amiably chats to his former co-stars, and it’s about as searching and interesting as any occasion when actors interview each other.

They reminisce about how honoured and blessed they were to work with each other and the pantheon of British acting legends, like Ralph Fiennes and Jason Isaacs, who bashfully admit they’d never really taken notice of the boy wizard and his friends (until, they neglect to add, the film studio offered them megabucks to take part).

But there are no perspectives on what made the book series so special, or if, for instance, the reading revolution that Rowling was credited with, really came to pass. Did Harry’s legion of young fans ever read another book, as Will Self once wondered? 

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The arc of the films is only sketched in the broadest terms – from the innocent cuteness of the first one to the darker adolescent themes and more elaborate special effects of the later instalments.

Instead the focus is more on the actors themselves. There is the slightly chilling moment when, as elfin pre-teens, they were told they couldn’t go home, such was the fervent press interest in them following the release of the first film.

Emma Watson reveals she "loved” Tom Felton (who played Draco Malfoy) – in a platonic way, she hastens to add. And to gales of embarrassed laughter, Helena Bonham Carter has Radcliffe read out a text where he admitted to a crush on her.

Aside from Watson, none of the young actors who made their name in the films have really blossomed into mature film stars later in life, but if they have reflections on the burdens of child stardom, they keep these to themselves.

Nostalgia, rather than reflection, is the order of the day in this slick production which is aimed squarely at fans.
 

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From left, Sophie Thatcher, Kevin Alves, and Jasmin Savoy Brown in 'Yellowjackets'

From left, Sophie Thatcher, Kevin Alves, and Jasmin Savoy Brown in 'Yellowjackets'

From left, Sophie Thatcher, Kevin Alves, and Jasmin Savoy Brown in 'Yellowjackets'

Not that there’s anything wrong with nostalgia.

Yellowjackets, a new American drama, is suffused with the stuff – with a cast and a soundtrack (featuring Hole, Liz Phair, and PJ Harvey) that will have recovered Nineties nerds purring.

The script is sort of like Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies, with catty wisecracks leavening the grander themes of civilisation vs savagery. A group of girls in a high school soccer team navigate the usual adolescent skirmishes of boys, drugs, and bullying (which happens over the phone rather than online).

In 1996 they take a cross-country trip to play a match – but the plane goes down and they are stranded in a mountainous wilderness, where group competition and instincts for survival kick into such a primeval gear that those who survive swear each other to silence.

We see them 20 years later, by which time they have become, variously, middle-aged matrons, pillars of the community, and washed-up druggies – all of whom must come together to defend their secrets from prying journalists and a mysterious blackmailer.

Ella Purnell, who plays the Queen Bee of the group, bears an uncanny resemblance to the ultimate Nineties mean girl (Beverly Hills 902010’s Shannon Doherty), and it’s a clever touch that the likes of Christina Ricci and the brilliantly weary Juliette Lewis, who portray the adult women, were known for playing teenage misfits in Nineties movies.

There are some silly supernatural elements and it’s not exactly what you’d call landmark television – but overall it’s good pulpy fun, with a darkly propulsive plot that explores how disappointed middle-aged people come to terms with the defining drama of their youth.
 

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The Friends Reunion

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Jennifer Aniston may have been slightly traumatised by seeing the old gang in Central Perk and hearing her crush on David Schwimmer re-hashed – but this reunion broke viewing records on Sky One and spawned a million ‘Matt LeBlanc as Irish uncle’ memes.

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