Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a half-useful review

Many people would find a review for the latest Harry Potter film to be a waste of time.  There  are the rabid fans of the Potter-verse who will see it repeatedly no matter how good/bad the film is, the casual fans of the series who will definitely see it, if not opening weekend then in the next few weeks, and many others who aren’t particularly fans of Potter who will nonetheless go see it, perhaps because their children/friends want too, or simply because there isn’t much else out there they haven’t seen yet.  For those huge segments of humanity there is no need for a review, as nothing I or anyone else says will matter in their decision to see the Half-Blood Prince.  Of course, there are also those who haven’t seen the films at all, but it would be counter-productive to write for them specifically, as at this point they would be hopelessly lost trying to watch this sixth film with no knowledge of the first five.  No, I am writing for those who have seen the earlier films, but for whom something was lacking, souring their view of the series.  I know of some parents who thought Order of the Phoenix was too dark, too scary for their children, (though it has been about two years since then, so some of those scared kids are old enough for it now) and others who thought the films were not faithful to the books. (That last one I have a hard time sympathizing with, since the books are simply too long to translate directly to film, but I can understand where they are coming from)

So, down to business.  Is Half-Blood Prince a good film?  In my opinion it is not only a great film, but might just be the best of the series to date.  It is as faithful to the source material as can be done in 2.5 hours.  In fact, my only complaint about content is that the sub-plot about Tonks and Lupin is cut, a cut that was necessary as it was a side story largely (okay, fine almost entirely) irrelevant to the main story.  Really I only complain because Tonks is my favorite character from the franchise.  While the story of Half-Blood Prince is darker than the previous film it doesn’t feel that way because it is also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in recent memory.  Little jokes are sprinkled liberally throughout the film, yet I don’t remember any of them failing to be at least amusing.  My favorites I’ll refrain from repeating to avoid spoilers, but very early in the film Dumbledore takes Harry somewhere and then says,

You’re probably wondering why I brought you here Harry.

Honestly, Professor, after six years I’ve learned to just go with it.

It’s not laugh out loud funny, but with so many similar exchanges in the film (and some that are good for a big laugh) it saves the tone from being too dark for kids.  Oh, on that note, the potential scenes of blood and/or gore in the film are shot carefully for the little kids sake, though there is still a fair bit of violence and blood in the film, to the point that it pushes the PG rating towards PG-13. (For those of you using a different rating system, PG means Parental Guidance Suggested, so good for kids but not little kids, while PG-13 means parents with kids under 13 should think carefully about taking them to see it… not that many do sadly)

Anyway, if you love Harry Potter you’ve probably already seen it or were planning to anyway.  For those that aren’t, I urge you to see it.  It is a great, fun, film appropriate for all ages, something we’ve been lacking recently; with films like Transformers 2 and Land of the Lost that in theory are for kids but in reality ended up too crass and inappropriate to really enjoy, especially for parents taking their kids to see.  For those of you that have never seen a Potter film, I would actually suggest you read up on the first five on wikipedia and go see it, there are certainly worse ways to be introduced to Harry Potter and it is better seen on the big screen.

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