We knew this Harry Potter movie was going to be a little different about five minutes in. Harry, when faced with the possibility of meeting up with a pretty waitress after she gets off work, does a quick breath-spray/breath-check combo. Hey Harry! Planning on doing some snogging?
Moments like that are what help make "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" possibly the most honest of all the HP flicks so far...and the most giggle-tastic. Part of the magic of the series is how J.K. Rowling brings her main characters through all the ups and downs of growing up -- fighting with friends, crazy mood swings, crushes, bullies, figuring out who they are as people -- at the same time that they're battling evil to save the world. And while it's always amazing to see the books' magical marvels come alive on the big screen, it's sometimes even more fun to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione be, well, just plain teens. The movie version of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was the first to really get this, and this installment, aka HP6, takes it even further...to the point where you may find yourself laughing and nudging your friends more than you thought you would. We love it for that.
HP6 also kicks the visuals up a notch and does not disappoint with suspense, mystery, and action. Daniel Radcliffe's Harry is strong and stoic and just really cool now, although we kinda miss his moments of weakness and doubt. Emma Watson's Hermione is more real than she's ever been, speaking for every girl who doesn't understand her own heart. It's great to see Ginny (Bonnie Wright) come into her own as a bigger character, and the moments between her and Harry as they find their way to each other are so lovely. And Rupert Grint. What can we say? In the past, IML'ers have crushed on him pretty hard and we didn't see it...until now. Yes, Ron is definitely hot. And hilarious. And amazing on the Quidditch pitch.
One thing we felt the HP6 movie is missing: the tale of how Tom Riddle became Voldemort. In the book, Harry (and readers) learn about Tom's family, childhood, and growing obsession with dark magic. There was something fascinating about Harry comparing his life to Tom's, and seeing how they were alike and different. Most of that has been cut from the film, and that's a shame. The ending also feels less devastating and ominous and scary than it does in the book, almost as if they needed to get the movie wrapped up quickly so it didn't run too long.
So much of HP6 is a setup for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," but you can also look at it as a semi-finale to the previous five books and movies. J.K. Rowling's world is familiar yet still wondrous, the characters are near the end of their journeys, and Harry has slowly gained the knowledge, strength, and love he needs to fulfill his destiny. If you're an HP fan you will eat up every minute of this movie. If you're not so much...well, maybe then you'll just nibble it.
IML's Rating: A-