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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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I'm a Harry Potter fan. I've read all the books and have enjoyed watching them come to life one by one on the big screen. Still, I'd sooner re-read any of the books than watch one of the movies a second time. The Harry Potter movies have somehow lacked that magical element that transports you right into the Wizarding World, as well as much of the wit and humor that make the books so much fun. But with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -- Merlin's Beard! -- I think they've finally got it right!

The elaborate sets and detailed costumes that we've come to expect are there, but this time, on top of all of that, we've got a quick moving plot and snappy dialogue. The cinematography has you moving through the Halls of Hogwarts like a Maurader up to no good and never standing still, while the action scenes are intense without dragging on too long. Helena Bonham Carter is wickedly destructive as Bellatrix Lestrange and kind of makes you want to go and break something just for the fun of it.

We catch up with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) as he gets ready to begin his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Voldemort has been raising hell and the magical war is exploding into the Muggle World. Inside the heavily guarded gates of Hogwarts, though, school must go on. Harry gets some extra guidance from Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), when he isn’t curiously absent for long stretches; Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), now out of retirement and once mentor to a young Voldemort; and the mysterious Half-Blood Prince, who influences Harry through notes in the margins of an old Potions textbook.

Harry is on a mission to learn all that he can about the boy Voldemort back when he was known as Tom Riddle (eerily portrayed by at 11 by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and 16 by Frank Dillane, and who I can’t believe are not brothers). He’s got his friends by his side to help him along the way. Ron is hilarious when intoxicated by a love potion and Hermione has her hands full trying to keep her two best friends egos in check, though she’s beginning to realize she has more than just friendly feelings towards one of the boys.

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Luna Lovegood is back and delightfully dippy. Lavender Brown emerges from the chorus as an admirer of Ron Weasley and her over-the-top performance is funny because, as anyone who has spent time around a group of preteen girls will tell you, it’s so spot on. Draco Malfoy is on a dark mission on his own, which both Harry and Professor Snape find themselves trying to thwart.

One criticism I heard on the way out of the theatre was that there was no resolution. This movie, like the sixth book, isn’t meant to be a complete story. It’s a bridge, but as bridges go, it’s like the Ponte Vecchio. It’s going to take you to the other side, but you’ll certainly enjoy admiring all of the treasures on display along the way.

Review by Courtney Quinn