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Rated 3.83 stars
by 655 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Magic, Intrigue and Romance
by Diana Saenger

Warner Bros. must love this summer season, for it’s the time to unleash another exciting movie in the Harry Potter franchise. Ever since the first film was adapted from J.K. Rowling's arsenal of imaginative novels about wizards, the books and movies have been red hot. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the current offering, leads the way to the end of the series, which raises expectations even more. The next adventure, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has been split into two movies, with Part 1 to be released in 2010 and Part 2 in 2011.

The Half-Blood Prince starts off with intense intrigue. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) have returned to the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft just before another term is about to begin. Those important players, including Ron’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and of course, Harry's rival, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) move into the scenery like chess pieces ready for a challenge.

Each awaits strategic moves by faculty members Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), returning Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) and the enigmatic Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Or worst yet, waiting to test their fate with Lord Voldemort’s malicious Death Eaters, energetically infused by the evil sorceress Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). And true to form, these ghouls are soon swishing through the sky like black tornados, leaving a trail of doom and gloom as they destroy bridges, buildings and set fires to the homes of Muggles.

Because the series has unfolded over many years, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are now teens with hormonal inclinations. So before they get all wrapped up in the complexities of who can outdo whom with their magic wands, a sweet romance takes place as Harry falls for Ginny. And poor Hermione watches Ron come under a love spell as he’s swept away head over heels by  Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave). During this part of the film, funny and charming scenes remind us the story is about young kids. I wish this tone had continued before moving on to the darker moments. By the third act, the film’s lightheartedness disappears as the story grows darker, more violent and definitely too scary for youngsters seven and under.

Harry is splendid as Daniel, which would seem obvious since he’s played the character for so long. However, being able to make Harry feel real in each situation takes more than just talent. Grint heightened his comedy chops here, while Watson’s character is mostly left to mope or smile. Unfortunately, Wright never instills any believable emotion into the role of Ginny, who seems one-note throughout the story. Harry falling for the quirky Luna would have been far more entertaining.

It’s fun to watch the kids in the Potion classes, and all the wonderful intricacies of the story never fail to amaze, such as when Professor Dumbledore summons Harry to unveil his tower of vases filled with liquid memories of his life. Playing Horace, Broadbent is as goofy as a Beverly Hillbilly, and Gambon is wonderful as Dumbledore. I love the uneven rhythm of Rickman’s dialogue, which always makes me laugh. He’s a hoot as Snape.  

Potter fans will probably not be disappointed, but newcomers to the story might want to watch the other films on DVD before attempting to make sense of  The Half-Blood Prince. Harry learns of  the title character’s existence when he gets his textbook for the Potion class and it’s inscribed by The Half-Blood Prince. Finding his identity is Harry’s mission.

Suspense mounts over which professor will not return in the next movie and whether or not Harry can stop Voldemort and his evil followers from gaining the power they seek. A line from the film could mirror this series -- "the tale is tiring, but now is the time to tell it.” Granted, The Half-Blood Prince is too long at 2 ½ hours. Still, highlighted by CGI-created fantasy and David Yate’s amazing direction as well as exquisite cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel (A Very Long Engagement) plus incredible sets and costumes, this Harry Potter cinematic adventure is what fans in the 1930s and 40s called “a movie.”

(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG” for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.)

Review also posted at .

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