Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon. Directed by David Yates. Rated PG for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality. 153 minutes.
REVIEW BY DANIEL M. KIMMEL
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is based on the next to last book in the series, although there are still two more films to go (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is being filmed in two parts). If you haven’t been reading the books or following the movies, part six is obviously not the place to start. For those who have, the story continues to take dark and disturbing turns leading to a climax that may draw tears even from people who already know what’s coming.
The evil Voldemort continues his attacks on the wizarding world, with his followers getting more blatant. There are occasional real world consequences, which even Muggles (we non-magical sorts) can’t help but notice. To fight back, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) enlists Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) help in luring retired Professor Slughorn back to Hogwarts. Continuing the flawless casting that has marked the films, Slughorn is played in full humbug mode by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent. Slughorn turns out to have been one of young Tom Riddle’s teachers, before Riddle grew up and became Voldemort.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves, who has adapted all of J. K. Rowling’s novels except Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, demonstrates an incredible ability to streamline the novels and focus on the main storylines. Viewers who haven’t read the book will find much to discover there, but those who have will find that the key plot points are here. Essentially there are two stories. First there’s the looming showdown with Voldemort where Harry is widely seen as the “chosen one” who will have to defeat him. Then there’s the fact that Harry and his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are now sixteen and love – real, magical, unrequited, etcetera – is very definitely in the air. Harry pines for Ron’s sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright) who is seeing another boy, while Ron is oblivious to the fact that Hermione is interested in him. This leads to a number of amusing and frustrating situations.
In the end, though, it’s Voldemort’s plot at Hogwarts, involving Harry’s old enemies Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) and fellow student Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) that leads to one of the most wrenching moments in the entire series. It is beautifully adapted in the film version, with director David Yates – who also did “Order of the Phoenix” and will direct the final two films – treating it with the high drama it deserves.
Having watched Radcliffe, Grint and Watson grow up with their characters, it’s nice to see them really come into their own here. Grint has a few delicious comic moments when Ron falls under the effects of one potion or another. Watson has become a role model for girls everywhere who want their intelligence to be part of their charm. And Radcliffe takes Harry through a harrowing journey that will leave him ready for the battle he knew was coming from the beginning of the series.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is an epic length fantasy where we continue to care for these characters, and are glad to know that the finale won’t be rushed.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.