The Trouble with Harry
My never ever having read a word or seen a frame of this phenomenal franchise afforded a rather rare perspective for a “special awards screening” of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. What follows is, thus, no comment on this or any of the J.K. Rowling fantasy volumes but only on this sixth film installment, the second to be directed by David Yates from a Steve Kloves adaptation.
Bloated in length like the whole series and too scary for real kiddies, Warner’s newest entry is all dark, unimaginative special effects. British filmmaker Peter Greenway remarked that “we don’t need books to make films,” but those previously in the dark about the story from books or films of this “pop-culture crockpot” will remain so, for the 153 minutes make little clear aside from a calculated Be-Sure-To-See-The-Sequel conclusion.
The movie is a mishmash of Victorian villains and Cruella De Vil hairdos and hamminess; of Batman, Dick Tracy, Giant’s Causeway, Unicorn tapestries and Mad Ludwig sets; of Dark Sides, Dark Lords and light wands out of the Star Wars pre- and sequels; of liftings from The Sword in the Stone, The Dark Crystal, The Goonies, The Forbidden Kingdom and a lame ending (and more) taken from the neat one in Young Sherlock Holmes. Among others.
For a target audience of chronological or mental white adolescents, tasteless excess of teen testosterone/estrogen turmoil muscles in alongside high school sports on broomsticks. Round about twenty by now and, it is said but not seen, needing to shave, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is a heartthrob like namesake Diana and Charles’s youngest. Rather toothless, as a matter of fact, this Chosen One exhibits scant magical or other talent beyond a tube-station pickup anticipated and accepted by a waitress (Elarica Gallacher).
Voldemort’s evil fickle fingers of smoke mess with the capital while evil figures plot no good at Borgin & Burke/Established 1838. So Professor and chief warlock Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) recalls the boyish hero to his sixth year at the Gothic halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Concurrently enticed back is Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), whose memory phial contains a whopping lie that Harry is charged to correct.
Among the slick-cutesy signs, scenes and required subjects, the boy wonder comes across an Advanced Potion Making text inscribed and annotated by the Half-Blood Prince. Accompanied by habitual Hardy Boys-Bobbsey Twins chums Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson), he must work around the baleful raven-ish Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) as well as the sabotage of nasty Narcissa Malfoy’s (Helen McCrory) colorless student son Draco (Tom Felton).
A pair of powerful, highly rare vanishing cabinets are involved, though they do little beyond bite apples and stun sparrows, but the heart of the search is the split-soul secret of former student Tom Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin at age eleven, Frank Dillane at sixteen), once a malevolent orphan and now Dark Lord. Much superfluous not very interesting activity gets screen time along the way, and in the way, since neither Chosen One nor head Wiz does much until a delayed journey to an Avalon lake stacked with standard-issue B-horror living corpses.
Harry, as Merlin-shadow Dumbledore insists, is much the more valuable of the two. As a cash cow, undoubtedly; as the star of yet another movie, not so. Like fellow film Brit the later James Bond, he has aged into hype minus soul.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG” for scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality.)