Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore
Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall
Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape
Dave Legeno as Fenrir Greyback
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Helen McCrory as Narcissa Malfoy
Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
Freddie Stroma as Cormac McLaggen
Alfie Enoch as Dean Thomas
Oliver Phelps as George Weasley
James Phelps as Fred Weasley
Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom
Alfie Enoch as Dean Thomas
Jamie Waylett as Vincent Crabbe
Josh Herdman as Gregory Goyle
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Professor Filius Flitwick
David Bradley as Argus Filch
Georgina Leonidas as Katie Bell
Isabella Laughland as Leanne
Hero Fiennes-Tiffin as Tom Riddle – Age 11
Frank Dillane as Tom Riddle – Age 16
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks
Timothy Spall as Wormtail
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
Gemma Jones as Madam Pomfrey
Rod Hunt as Thorfinn Rowle
Katie Leung as Cho Chang

Directed by David Yates

Summary:
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” has great acting and is a solid adaptation of the book, but it lacks the magical and memorable moments of the previous films.

Story:
As Harry Potter begins his sixth year at Hogwarts, love is in the air. Harry starts noticing Ron’s sister Ginny, Hermione starts having feelings for Ron, and Ron is, well, oblivious. And with a new year at Hogwarts, there’s a new teacher to fill a vacant slot at the school. This time around Professor Horace Slughorn comes on board to teach the potions class. But as Harry becomes Slughorn’s star pupil, he has ulterior motives for doing so. Professor Albus Dumbledore believes that Slughorn holds a key piece of information for defeating Voldemort and he wants Harry to coax it out of him. And as Voldemort’s Death Eaters begin terrorizing not only the magical world but the Muggle world, too, Harry’s mission becomes even more critical.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.

What Worked:
This review assumes that you’ve read “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Therefore, there are no spoilers here for people that have read the book. If you haven’t read it, then hit the ‘eject’ button now.

Seeing a new Harry Potter movie is like revisiting old friends. It was even more special for me this time around because my daughter recently discovered the books and movies. She eagerly attended the screening with me and was bouncing in her chair in anticipation of the sixth “Potter” film.

With each Potter movie, I look for several things. How does it compare with the book? How does it fit with the previous movies? How does it break new ground? As the movie started, I came to the realization that I had almost completely forgotten what happened in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” I read it so long ago that I only had vague recollections of what happened. The opening scenes didn’t help matters because as we’re being treated to amazing scenes of Death Eaters flying over London and destroying a bridge, I couldn’t remember it happening in the book (except maybe in a throwaway line). But as soon as the main story kicked in and Slughorn was introduced, the plot came back to me. While the script has the usual embellishments and deletions, I think it overall captured the heart of the story. It’s a solid adaptation of the book.

The main cast, as usual, is excellent. I don’t think I have to say much about Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, or Emma Watson as Hermione Granger. They do fantastic performances and they’re what I envision in my head of the characters when I read the books now. The same goes for Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as McGonagall, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, and Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. This time around Tom Felton stands out as Draco Malfoy because he’s given significantly more to do. He does a good job showing Draco’s inner torment to the point you start feeling sorry for him. Bonnie Wright also returns as Ginny Weasley. While she isn’t quite the polished actress that many of the other cast members are, it’s satisfying to see the continuity between the films when she’s used. Her familiar face makes a lot of the stiff performance entirely forgivable.

The only significant addition to the cast is Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn. He does a great job with the character by making him endearing yet flawed. He’s quite friendly and an excellent teacher, yet he’s infatuated with popularity and flattery. And despite the fact that he inadvertently aids Voldemort in his quest for invincibility, Broadbent still manages to make him likable and you forgive him for his mistake.

As for the visual effects, there are a couple of great Quidditch matches with some great scenes. The Death Eaters that turn into columns of smoke are also quite impressive and scary. Scenes where Harry views captured memories are impressive as they are created from what looks like ink in water. It’s a beautiful effect. But one of the most memorable scenes in the film is when dead bodies coming out of a lake attack Harry and Dumbledore. It’s a frightening scene with incredible visuals.

What Didn’t Work:
Unfortunately while “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a beautiful film with solid acting, it’s rather dull. Even my daughter, the new Potter fanatic, turned to me after the movie and said, “That was boring.” Ouch! This film suffers from what a friend of mine dubbed “Bridge Syndrome.” Typically in a trilogy, the first story sets everything up and the final story has the dramatic conclusion. If not done correctly, the middle story can end up just keeping all the characters in a holding pattern till the finale and it doesn’t really move the story along. That was the case here. Potter 6 has two significant events in it – a major character dies and Harry Potter falls in love. You could completely skip this movie and head into Potter 7 knowing only those two details and you’d be OK.

I think several things contribute to this overall dull feeling. First of all, it ends on a downer. As you know if you read the book, a major character dies. The conclusion of the film is very muted and melancholy. It’s not necessarily how you want to walk out of a big summer movie. Second, there’s not a major memorable moment in the film. The previous movies had big Quidditch scenes, the unveiling of the creepy looking Voldemort, the Hippogriff, or any other number of cool moments. This movie doesn’t have that. Instead, we have the final dulling thing – the scenes of young love. We’re treated to endless scenes of Potter being awkward, Ron being smothered by Lavender Brown, and Hermione pining over Ron. It’s a lot of fun at first, but it ends up being done so much that you begin to realize it’s the centerpiece of the story. If it were between watching teens flirting or some magical beast attacking people, I’d rather see CG mayhem.

The Bottom Line:
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a solid film as far as execution goes, but fans are probably going to walk out of the theater a tad disappointed. However, this will make everyone all the more primed to see the explosive finale to the Potter Saga.

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