MOVIE REVIEW ★★ ½ ‘Harry Potter’ and The Magic of Adolescence, Which Is Quickly Wearing Thin

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Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) shop for love potions. What’s more fun than mixing magic and hormones?
Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours 33 minutes
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It’s never a good sign when you have difficulty remembering what happened in a movie soon after you leave the theater. And by soon, I mean before you hop on the subway after the film ends. I had been quite excited to watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth movie in the series, especially after reading some very positive reviews. Perhaps they set my expectations too high; I should have known not to get my hopes up.

I won’t go through an entire refresher course of the storyline because frankly, you’d be better off re-reading the book and skipping the movie entirely. In HP6, we are back to Hogwarts, with a few new developments. There’s a new Potions teacher, Professor Slughorn, played sportingly by Jim Broadbent. Slughorn holds a very important secret that Harry must charm out of him. Ron is now on the Quidditch team. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is still The Chosen One. Ho-hum. Oh, and there’s that whole Half-Blood Prince business that matters only in the title and in about two minutes of anti-climactic resolution towards the end of the film.

This is not to say that the movie had no highlights or redeeming aspects. The special effects and cinematography definitely stand out in certain scenes. In particular, seeing the Weasley’s Wheezes on screen is a feast for the eyes, as well as watching the students toil away in Potions class, trying to make the perfect “draught of living death.” Ron Weasley, played by Rupert Grint, is funnier than ever, providing some genuine laughs amidst the darker tone of the movie (which really is not that dark at all — did anyone else wish that the parental rating was at least PG-13 so that there could actually be some legitimate chills and thrills?). As for the highly touted romantic moments and increasingly entangled love lives of our favorite teenage wizards and witches, would someone please tell me what is remotely romantic about tying the shoelaces of one’s love interest while he awkwardly stands about? Sure, there are some cute borderline-”aw”-worthy scenes as Ron and Hermione (Emma Watson) realize their feelings for each other, but most come across as too tepid, forced, or just plain awkward.

The problem with the Harry Potter movies is that while it is difficult not to get involved in the storyline when reading the books, the near opposite is true with the movies. They are the cinematic equivalent of a friend you used to really like but don’t see often these days — you make the obligatory trip to see them when they’re in town, have a few laughs and notice some new things here and there, and then, without a second look back, return to what you were doing before you saw them. While the new Harry Potter movie does not leave a sour taste in your mouth, it does not really leave much of anything else either.

However, the sad truth ­— or perhaps the awesome truth if you are Warner Bros. — is that if you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you will go see the movie no matter how mediocre of a film it is, sometimes more than once. Let’s just hope that the final two movies of the series, which are to cover the seventh book, will finally give their pre-sold audiences something worthwhile to watch and remember.