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Movie Review:
Harry Potter and
the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -- Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.
Recommended for ages 9 and up.
Run Time: 138 minutes
Quick Take: Kids hungry for more Harry adventures will sate their appetites with this film version of the sixth book. Some dark moments make this one a know-your-kid choice for parents.

Half-Blood Prince Blends Dark and Light for Pitch-Perfect Cinema

What a job it must be, making Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth Harry Potter film. With nearly two years since the last book emerged, fans -- myself being one of the hopelessly-devoted-to-Harry types -- are a-clamor for more Potter. And the pressures are myriad -- be true to the book, while picking and choosing the must-have scenes of J.K. Rowling's 652-page, action-packed tome. (After all, to put everything in would mean making a 652-minute movie -- sounds good in theory to a Potter fan, until she realizes there's no spell to eliminate the need for bathroom breaks.)

The fact that the sixth book is defined by less outright battles and more "get to know your enemy" moments also means it's a tough one to tackle: Harry Potter fans expect edge-of-their-seat thrills. So what director David Yates and screenwriter Steven Kloves end up doing with the penultimate book -- well, it's nothing short of magic. The latest installment masterfully manages to take us into Voldemort's dark past, unite Harry and Dumbledore as more than teacher and student, and set us up for the final battle between good and evil.

It's the kind of stuff you unravel, rather than spill all at once.

And that they do, while several brilliant set pieces give fans the big moments. One comes immediately, as movie opens on an answer to the question, "What does Voldemort's rise mean for the Muggle world?" The answer comes to terrifying life as three Death Eaters attack Muggle London with no regard for the line between the wizard and human worlds. Later, a Death Eater attack sets the screen ablaze, literally. And Harry and Dumbledore's quest to a dark magic-infected cave is packed to the gills with sights to behold (and to make you jump out of your seat.)

But it's not all gloom and doom. After a last film sans Quidditch, we get a Gryffindor/Slytherin match -- with Ron at the center, no less! A hilarious try-out sequence will delight any kid who's ever had a bad day at Little League. And Fred and George Weasley's fantastic magical joke shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is brought to glorious life in a colorful concoction even better than a reader could imagine.

Yates manages to capture all that and put in enough teen romance – the longing, the jealousy, and, yes, the snogging -- that he could claim the title as the magic-inclined, English John Hughes.

I'll add to all this that I've never been one for fantasy films. I could take or leave -- really, leave -- the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its ilk. But Rowling's created a world so wonderful and yet so grounded in humanity that I could spend days soaking it up.

From the first book/film's Sorting Hat anxiety -- the equivalent of "OMG, what lunch table will I sit at?" -- to this latest installment's love potion-making, he's-so-gonna-like-me infatuation, she's remembered that Harry, Ron and Hermione might be heroes but they're ultimately kids -- now young adults -- when it comes down to it.

Any fan of Harry Potter, young or old, should leave this film under a thoroughly satisfied spell. That's a testament to the power of Rowling's tales, and to the wonderful cast. After six movies playing the same part, you might expect the young leads or series regulars like Alan Rickman (who plays the awesomely inscrutable Severus Snape) and Robbie Coltrane (the heartful Hagrid) to be phoning it in. So when they instead make their characters grow ever more interesting, you're eternally grateful.

Now when's the next one coming out?

Kids Will Like:
You have to ask? It's Harry Potter. The movie is packed with magical scenes -- most delightful to children will be those featuring the Weasley twins' magnificent joke shop, Ron's Quidditch try-out, and the day-to-day moments of being a Hogwarts students. Tweens and teens will likely love the adolescent romance. Though there are plenty of chilling moments, kids who've weathered the scares and suspense of J.K. Rowling's books are probably going to be okay with edge-of-their-seat moments.

Parents Will Like:
Again, it's Harry Potter. Plenty of parents loved the books as much as their kids did, and even those who are unfamiliar with Rowling's tales can find lots to like here. The value of friendship, loyalty, courage, and love are major themes. And the teen romance might make you feel like, well, a teenager.

Related Features:
Harry Potter Mania
Family Movie Night Ideas
More Family Movies & DVDs

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