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Could it Be Magic?: The Trouble with Harry Potter 

Whaddaya call this sport again? Cribbage?British comedian Stewart Lee has a skit in response to the Harry Potter franchise. To quote: "People come up to

click to enlarge Whaddaya call this sport again? Cribbage?
  • Whaddaya call this sport again? Cribbage?
Whaddaya call this sport again? Cribbage?British comedian Stewart Lee has a skit in response to the Harry Potter franchise. To quote: "People come up to me and ask, 'Oh, did you read the new Harry Potter?' And I say, 'No I haven't read it, because I'm forty f***ing years-old, no, I did not read Harry Potter And The Tree Of NOTHING.'"

But point being, there is very little point to actually reviewing the latest Harry Potter movie. The franchise is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, and the Hogwarts tales are so beloved across the world that the creators could probably turn out a shaky cell phone-made film of the cast drunkenly slurring through a script reading around a table at the Dog In The Pond pub in rural Sussex, with Daniel Radcliffe leaving for the bathroom half-way through not coming back, and it would still be a smash.

So, considering, it's fair that this multi-billion dollar juggernaut assumes that everyone has read the books, everyone has seen the movies and so proceeds to produce material based on this assumption. It sells. Well, this reviewer has not read the series, and has completely avoided anything more than a TV preview of the movies. Hell, this reviewer thought Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were a couple.

All right, once, when bored on a long train journey, she may have read a third of the first page of the second book. But quickly a voice creeped into her head which nagged, "You haven't read Pride and Prejudice, you haven't read Crime and Punishment and you only kind of skimmed Catcher In The Rye back in 1997, so how can you explain your reasoning for reading this Harry Potter?" Ironically, the voice would say, "this Harry Potter" in the haughty tone of actress Maggie Smith.

Accepting this predicament and experiencing Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince purely as cinematic entertainment, that's a pretty-lights-and-colors-pretty-people-talking level, it's not a bad ride. At its most annoying, the story plays out as a visual ticking-off of the book's highlights for those in the know. JK Rowling and friends appear to nudge and wink, "Hey, you've read the book three times by now. So, let's just get this over with before the blighters get fidgety."

To be sure, it is plenty exciting, with some beautifully elaborate set pieces and a sweet performance by Jim Broadbent as the professor of potions. He's an actor who normally does brilliant, yet quiet work, even if you don't know his name, you'll definitely know his face. Here, Broadbent is the giddy centerpiece charming you through some of the more confounding movements.

Yet it's hard to figure what joy a fan can gain from watching such a reenactment mere months after the book's release. If we wanted to be cynically analytical about it, we might suggest JK Rowling led the way to the death of the imagination. At least with Twilight the film was so low budget that the lame special effects couldn't possibly live up to what the book's fevered readers had pictured. Also, the Twilight movie was a vast improvement on the novel, which is filled with achingly dull, romance-killing exposition. Whereas Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince leaves you only partially satisfied. Well, partially satisfied, and considering reading the book, if only to fill in the blanks. Oh no, this is the secret to their success, this is the first step to conversion. A curiosity. Must resist. Must read Pride and Prejudice.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman. Directed by David Yates. Rated PG


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