'Half-blood Prince' doesn't take a Potter fan to appreciate

Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Before we get to the 17th "Harry Potter" movie (alright, alright, 6th), I thought I'd share with you what some dude felt compelled to share with everyone sitting near him at Glacier Cinemas the other night: his immediate reaction to each preview before "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" began.

Submitted Photo
Submitted Photo

"The Final Destination" is going to "really suck. The other two were bad so why would this one be any better?" Never mind that there are three others, he's probably right. "The Time Traveler's Wife" looks "totally lame." "Sherlock Holmes" will be "awesome." Finally, "Fame" could only elicit an "are you kidding me?" out of my auditorium neighbor.

And now you know what I know.

Thankfully, he didn't check in during "Half-Blood Prince" nearly as often. It's a good thing he didn't distract me, too, because having missed at least one of the prior films and all of the books, I was playing catch-up. For instance, I didn't get the memo about how Hogwarts and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and company are now known to the public. At least, that's what I gathered from Harry and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) being front-page news, literally.

One of the nicest things about "Half-Blood Prince" (directed by David Yates) is that it doesn't cater strictly to Pott-heads (I just coined that, like, just now - unless you can prove otherwise!). It doesn't take a Potter fan, for example, to understand what Harry is doing at a subway diner when we see him for the first time in "Half-Blood Prince." He succeeds, even, in securing an impromptu date with the very cute waitress (Elarcia Gallagher) until ole' Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) shows up and whisks him away.

Harry, though, is used to that. As he says to Dumbledore, "After all these years, sir, I kind of just go with it." We do too, right? And that's where the fun lies in the world multi-quadrillionaire J.K. Rowling has created. Just go with it. You don't need to know all the back-story to get that Draco Malfoy is a punk. He's all too easy to root against. When he stomps Harry's face in the beginning of "Half-Blood Prince" that much should become immediately obvious. You don't need to know what exactly the deal is with Bellatrix Lestrange (a very creepy Helena Bonham Carter) to pick up on the fact that she and her cohorts are the bad guys; they seemingly for no reason destroy a footbridge in London toward the start of the film.

"Half-Blood Prince" boils down to the good guys versus the bad guys. The rest is just icing. I found myself truly enjoying the icing in this film, too. I was worried initially that the cast of 20-somethings (it's been almost a decade since they first starred as these characters) would seem embarrassingly out of place, too old to be playing the kids at Hogwarts. My understanding is that Rowling doesn't really age the kids in her books, and if that's the case than I have to give a Stephen Colbert tip-of-the-hat to screenwriter Steve Kloves. Instead of trying to hide the fact that the cast is growing up quickly, he embraces it. There are some genuinely funny scenes revolving around the various crushes among the teenaged characters. It reminded me, in fact, of why I was such a sucker for the long running FOX TV series, "The O.C.".

Throw in a couple of downright scary moments and "Half-Blood Prince" makes a more than adequate 153-minute flick. Much to my surprise, I was disappointed when the final credits began to roll.

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