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HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (director: David Yates; screenwriters: from the novel by J.K. Rowling/Steve Kloves; cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel; editor: Mark Day; music: Nicholas Hooper; cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Jim Broadbent (Professor Horace Slughorn), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Michael Gambon (Prof. Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (Prof. Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Jessie Cave (Lavender Brown), Hero Fiennes Tiffin (Tom Riddle, age 11), Frank Dillane (teenage Tom Riddle); Runtime: 153; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: David Barron/David Heyman; Warner Bros.; 2009-UK)
“Visually appetizing sixth installment in the Harry Potter series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In this visually appetizing sixth installment in the Harry Potter series adapted from J.K. Rowling’s Potter tales that is written for the screen by Steve Kloves (who should get kudos for cutting through the lengthy book and still keeping it at least dramatic enough for cinema though in the editing process, I’m told, dropping key elements from the book). Director David Yates (“Good Looks”/”When I Was a Girl”/”Oranges and Lemons”), who helmed the previous Potter film, “The Order of the Phoenix,” keeps things flying and has the students at Hogwarts (a school of witchcraft and wizardry) take on more real-life weighty issues such as transience–giving it a more grown up look.

The franchise’s massive global commercial success and the way it has taken hold as such a cultural phenomenon, must be pleasing to all those who put together such a good product.

The story line has one major character’s death at its conclusion and also the rising to the fore of the ghoulish scheming one behind the scenes— the half-blood prince. It builds the tension but leaves off a climax to await instead for a final confrontation between Harry and the archfiend Voldemort in the two-part finale of the soon to be released “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

The story comes across clear enough for virgins to this series, like myself, but there were times I was lost in why such a callow student like Harry would be entrusted by a master wizard with such a challenging task as the final battle against the evil force. The filmmakers chose not to recap the other films in the series, therefore if one comes into this film cold they will find things hauntingly watchable but will still be missing much.

“Half-blood Prince” opens with the bespectacled “chosen one,” Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), having a bloody-lip and facing the flashing bulbs of the London photo-journalists and then meeting a flirty subway café waitress, but at the underground station is magically whisked away by the elderly great wizard Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Hogwarts’ headmaster, to recruit former colleague Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), making a disguised entrance as a piece of furniture, to return to Hogwarts as new potions professor. Meanwhile Harry’s student nemesis, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), prepares to commit a heinous crime which will result in the evil Voldemort’s comeback (the ghoulish figure has made the school an unsafe place).

Harry acts like a typical teen when he uses his magical powers to hit on chicks (they include Emma Watson’s Hermione, Bonnie Wright’s Ginny and Jessie Cave’s Lavender Brown). For comic relief, Harry jealously watches as Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Harry’s BFF and Ginny’s brother, drinks a love potion that makes him the sex slave in all his encounters. Mixing coming-of age fantasy with teen romance and having the nasty but ambiguously motivated Prof. Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) at last reveal his true intentions, the film colorfully builds to its halting climax but not without some awkwardness along the way.

If you’re a fan of the series, this one should be pleasing even if it feels like filler for the expected seventh and eight installments in 2010 and 2011. Others not signed onto the Potter series, like myself, who must play catch-up, might still find it moderately pleasurable even if only as unconverted newcomers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”