the Half-Blood Prince
- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
omeone at Warner Brothers must have used a charm spell on the members of the MPAA in order to secure a PG rating for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” This is one creepy movie, with hexes, poisonings, bloody wizard duels, an undead army, and death. Conversely, it is also the funniest “Potter” movie to date, and the first to explore the raging hormones lurking within our heroes and heroines alike. This combination of teenage nightmares both real (Voldemort) and imaginary (the opposite sex) produces the most grounded “Potter” movie to date, and arguably the best.
The movie begins with a bang, as Lord Voldemort’s henchmen, the Death Eaters, are officially out of hiding and abducting persons of interest, wreaking havoc for wizards and Muggles alike. Once at school, however, Voldemort is the last thing on the mind of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). He has to deal with his growing feelings for Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), the little sister of his best friend Ron (Rupert Grint). He also has to diffuse the simmering tension between Ron and Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson), since Ron is too busy “snogging” new girlfriend Lavender Brown to realize that Hermoine is his for the taking. Harry also can’t help noticing that his longtime rival Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is acting odder than usual, and Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is by Draco’s side seemingly at all times. But Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) tries to get Harry to focus on the memories he’s collected of the pre-Dark Side Voldemort, when he was called Tom Riddle, as they contain a clue to Voldemort’s seeming invulnerability. Harry, however, can’t help but wonder if the potions book he just inherited, which previously belonged to “The Half-Blood Prince” and contains one rather wicked spell, could be a clue from Riddle’s school days as well.
With all due respect to Michael Goldenberg, the screenwriter that adapted “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the return of Steve Kloves to the writer’s chair (he had adapted the first four “Potter” films) was an essential move. Kloves doesn’t just give the actors good lines – he gives them personalities, and the child actors, at long last, get to breathe some life into their roles. Director David Yates seems more comfortable this time around as well, staging a couple of fantastic fight sequences, the best looking Quidditch match to date, and even goes Roland Emmerich on a walkway over the Thames. The kids still need to work on their enunciation, but the dialogue isn’t nearly as unintelligible as it was the last time around.
“Half-Blood Prince” also sports the largest cast of any “Potter” movie to date, but unlike the revolving-door-of-dialogue approach of “Phoenix,” everyone gets their chance to shine here. Even the long-forsaken Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) gets a good laugh at the expense of Harry and Ron, and Rickman wrings every ounce of dark humor out of Snape. The newest English thespian to join the troop is Jim Broadbent, who makes potions teacher Horace Slughorn quite likable despite his tendency to milk his students’ celebrity for all it’s worth (which makes him very interested in Harry, naturally). And then there’s Evanna Lynch, whose daffy Luna Lovegood steals every scene she’s in. Wisely, Kloves does not overuse her, though we can see where he would be tempted to do so. She just oozes funny.
Again, don’t let that PG rating fool you; this is going to freak some young kids out, not to mention the game-changing death scene in the movie’s climax. The rating, after all, does stand for “Parental Guidance suggested,” so I urge parents to do just that. Having said that, anyone mature enough to handle “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” should see it. These wizards and witches have never seemed so human, which is as nice a compliment as one can pay a fantasy movie.
Two-Disc Special Edition Review:
Potterphiles are going to love the extras contained on the two-disc edition of "Half-Blood Prince." Several of the Hogwarts students go behind the scenes to discuss the editing, stunts, special effects, costumes and makeup for the "Potter" movies, and Tom Felton plays a fun game called "What's on Your Mind?" with them, asking questions about their favorite food, people and places. There is a bit dedicated to footage from the upcoming "Deathly Hallows" movie, but the footage is pretty basic. There are several deleted scenes, including one involving clouds gathering over Hogwarts that should have made the final cut. On the self-promotion front, there is a featurette dedicated to the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Lastly, there is a 50-minute film dedicated to author J.K. Rowling. Warners did not skimp with the extras here.