Harry, hormones, and horror add up to a summer winner

From the first breakneck race through London to the final creepy credit, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is a winner.

While it’ll be no surprise that the legions of Potter fans will swamp theaters this week and beyond, what is pleasing about this phenomenon is movie fans will be treated to a fine piece of cinema.

Director David Yates and Director of Photography Bruno Delbonnel have taken Steve Kloves’ screenplay of J.K. Rowling’s book and created a nigh-perfect blend of drama, horror and humor which stimulates, satisfies, and entertains.

It’s the actors who make the Potter films, of course. The three young wizards Harry (Daniel Radcliffe,) Hermione (Emma Watson,) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have grown into their roles and impart not only the trials and tribulations of adolescence and young love, but inject a clearer understanding that with all the fun and games of what they are learning at Hogwarts School, there is a deeply disturbing undercurrent to magic which threatens to overwhelm them, the school, and humanity.

As Harry, Daniel Radcliffe begins to explore the responsibilities of being ‘the Chosen One” who will battle the evil Voldemort, and see the similarities between his own life and that of the young man who was to become the Dark Lord. He handles it well.

The central three are backed up by the cream of British theater, and it’s truly wonderful to watch the likes of Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and David Thewlis slip in and out of the action, giving an effortless power to the whole production. Indeed there are moments where the film becomes for a Gambon film as Dumbledore sets out to take on the gathering powers of darkness. And the introduction of Jim Broadbent as potions professor Horace Slughorn is simply a delight.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is the shortest two and a half hours that I have spent in the movie theater in some time. With Oscar now offering the new extended list of best film nominees, it will be interesting to see if this film makes the cut.

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