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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

“Is that a wand in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” obviously should have been the opening line for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but, alas, director David Yates (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) went for something much tamer. Why I don’t know because this chapter in the continuing saga of the boy wizard and his pals is all about something more magical than the potions they brew at Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizardary. It’s about the explosion of hormones that is going on in each of these classmates as their sixth year together begins, and there’s nothing more powerful than a pants full of that. Well, there is Voldemort, Harry’s arch-enemy, but he’s only seen in this movie through headmaster Dumbledore’s memories of the evil one as a child, when he was simply known as Tom Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin; Bigga Than Ben) hardly the frightful fiend he threatens to be in the present. But this story he not about him, this is all about horny Harry (Daniel Radcliffe; December Boys), rutting Ron (Rupert Grint; Cherrybomb), heaving Hermione (Emma Watson; The Tale of Despereaux) and jiggly Ginny (Bonnie Wright; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) as they come to grips with their feelings for one another in more (ahem) adolescent ways. Oh, don’t worry. This is still family entertainment. There’s nothing crazier than a kiss going to be shared onscreen, though I couldn’t help but laugh at how little we see of nasty-boy Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton; The Disappeared) except in scenes where he is sneaking off to a tower somewhere alone, looking as miserable as he possibly can. I couldn’t help but imagine him carrying a few gay porn mags under his wizarding robes while on his way for a bit of a hands-on solo enjoyment since Harry is never going to be his. All that money wasted on "Equus" tickets during their summer break and not once did he get as much as a wink from the stage for attending every one of those performances front row center.

Okay, so Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince doesn’t really have much of a plot of its own. It is primarily a prelude to the final confrontation between good and evil in the next (and final) book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As such, this film is about re-assembling the cast of characters from the rich Potter universe of now four previous books and films and reminding us of their loyalties and underlining the mystery of just what we don’t actually know. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince begins with an explosion of destruction by the dreaded Death Eaters, who wreak havoc across the world of the Muggles for no apparent reason except to keep the CGI artists in third world countries working. While we’ve seen them go after the magical world before, this entré into the everyday realm appears unwarranted and never is explained, though the destruction of landmarks throughout Europe makes for a fine stimulation of the senses before the Death Eaters blow on through to their usual supernatural home and destroy random shops along magical Diagon Alley. What this has to do with the actual story is not much except to jog the audience’s memory that Helena Bonham Carter (Terminator Salvation) is a real bitch of a witch and she may not have much to do right now but you shouldn’t forget she’s around because she’s going to be back big time in the finale. Oh, and she’s a bitch in case that’s not clear.

One thing I thought was rather cheeky about the Death Eaters flyby in the Alley was that it coincides with a clandestine meeting between the always sour Severus Snape (Alan Rickman; Bottle Shock), who I personally think looks like a German Lesbian with a constipation problem, and Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix Lestrange. Also joining them is the fabulously named Narcissa Malfoy (Helen McCrory; Flashbacks of a Fool), Draco’s mother, who is called into service since her husband was locked up at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Who can’t love an evil creature with a name like Narcissa? I’d love to meet her parents. Anyone who would name their kid Narcissa has my vote to be turned into Child Protective Services before they can take the baby home from the hospital. I wonder if she has a sister named Douchebaggia or a brother named Rednecky? Anyway, this meeting is important because Mrs. Malfoy insists that the big fat Lesbian teacher, er, I mean Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow (ooooh, scaaary!) to complete “the task” assigned to Draco by “the Dark Lord” himself and should Draco fail at that, then Snape will complete the job and protect Draco to make sure he doesn't get hurt along the way. The Dark Lord? When did Obama get involved in all of this? Does any of this have to do with the stimulus money we’ve all heard so much about?

So yadda, yadda, yadda… everybody is tense at Hogwarts because “evil lurks nearby” which seems to be the school’s motto if you ask me, and why the staff doesn’t just kick the whole Slitherin House out of Hogwarts is beyond me because you can plainly see they are nothing but juvenile delinquents being taught wicked ways to take over the world using plants that will sing us to death or some such twaddle.

Dumbledore (Michael Gambon; Brideshead Revisited), meanwhile, has gotten Harry to join him in going to an old friend’s home and recruit him to return to Hogwart’s after decades away. Ever since author J.K. Rowling outed Dumbledore a couple of years ago, I can’t help but view his every move in a new light. The fact that he takes this luscious, somewhat fey, young man with him to lure old Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent; Inkheart) back to teach the Potions class seems a tad icky. It’s a bit like dangling a carrot in front of a mule. Worse yet, as soon as the Professor is ensconced, Dumbledore is urging Harry to make himself “available” to Slughorn for his friendship and a possible invitation for a private dinner. Since when did Albus Dumbledore become a pimp? Granted, he has the hat and robe for it, but that beard is a bit out of style. I’m surprised he doesn’t just give Harry a spell for instantaneous lubrication to get things going and send him on his way. I’m just sayin’.

The “big” mystery of the movie is who the Half-Blood Prince is, though what this means overall is never discussed. I’d imagine it means the guy is half-Muggle and half Royal, so my first guess was going to be Prince Harry, but then I realized they’d never have two Harrys in one movie so I considered it might be Prince William, but he’s not nearly as hot as he used to be, and that would be a dismal disappointment. I’m sorry, but you know it is true. William started out looking boy-batter good, more Diana than Horsey-faced Charles, but the closer he gets to thirty the more he now looks like he should be pulling a cart to market while his younger brother just gets hotter with every birthday. Well, it doesn’t matter how much I dreamed of Prince Hot Ginge joining the cast, it turns out the Half-Blood Prince is the German Lesbian, so who really cares? All of the whoop-dee-doo is because Harry has gotten his hands on a used textbook of the HBP with notes in the margins that help him conjure potions way beyond the skills of the other students. Isn’t he special? Yawn.

I’m telling you, this is the height of drama in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince unless you want to focus on Ron becoming a studly Quidditch goalie and attracting the cloying love of some annoying sow named Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave; Inkheart), who seems to exist only so Hermione can huff and puff and stomp about before dimbulb Ron eventually gets that the girl he really loves has been right in front of his eyes all along. Duh.

Harry does a little of this same stupid game as he lets his preoccupation with Draco (hmmmm?) distract him from the fact that Ron’s younger sister, Ginny, has bloomed into a young woman with eyes only for the boy wizard and his wand. Eventually it is up to Ginny to take the situation in hand and reveal her true love for Harry, and they kiss, or rather, she kisses him, but he seems to enjoy the experience for what it’s worth.

Tragedy strikes, and I don’t think it’s any spoiler at this point to reveal that before the film’s end that old darling, Albus, takes an Avada Kedavra to the chest and the spill from the spell out of Hogwart’s highest tower means, alas, Dumbledore is nevermore.

What an inspiring way to end the movie. Of course, there is a lot more than the bits and bobs I’ve told you about, but I’m not one to give you everything. You need to conjure up a few bucks of your own and go see it for yourself. As usual, the production values are amazing, the cast is spot-on, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is like a visit to the family you secretly wish you truly had. Even the worst of them are at least entertaining, and you can count on them getting their comeuppance in the end. If only it worked that way in real life.

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