‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Turan praises a cast that is ‘as familiar as family members’

July 14, 2009 | 9:26 p.m.

Across the country, muggles are getting ready for the midnight arrival of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth film in the history-making wizard saga. Everyone is excited to walk in — but how will they feel after the credits roll? Kenneth Turan, the lead film critic for the Los Angeles Times, has seen the film — here’s an excerpt from his review.

Harry Potter, outstanding in his field

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is being described as an excursion into the dark side for this venerable series, but don’t let the chatter fool you. Now in its sixth episode shot over an eight-year span, with two more features still to come, this one-of-a-kind film cycle has become as comfortable and reliable as an old shoe, providing a degree of dependability that’s becoming increasingly rare.

As directed by David Yates, who did the previous film and is on tap for the final two, “Half-Blood Prince” demonstrates the ways that the Potter pictures have become the modern exemplars of establishment moviemaking. We don’t turn to these films for thrilling or original cinema, we look for a level of craft, consistency and, most of all, fidelity to the originals — all of which we get.

Yes, the Death Eaters in thrall to Lord Voldemort, “the most dangerous dark wizard of all time,” are on the march and threatening Hogwarts and all it stands for, but those who’ve read the books know how all that plays out. It’s not chills or suspense audiences are asking for here, but respectful familiarity.

It’s only the phenomenal success of the books that has made all this possible, that has ensured a loyal audience for each film, an audience that has invested so much emotion, not to mention time, in the ongoing Potter saga that skipping an episode is out of the question. That’s a kind of brand loyalty that’s all but gone out of style.

That investment of time also means we’ve been watching the film’s trio of youthful principals — Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as sidekick Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as brainy Hermione Granger — grow up on screen since 2001. They’ve become as familiar as family members, and “Half-Blood Prince” trades on that connection to keep us involved when things get slow.

This bond is especially necessary in those sections of the film in which the Hogwarts gang goes through the agonies of teenage romantic attachment. Is Harry getting serious about Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright)? Will Ron be too busy with Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) to care? Or to so much as notice that his pal Hermione is pining away just for him? It’s not clear who suffers more here, the kids navigating this “High School Confidential” universe or audiences having to endure it with them.

Fortunately, there’s more to “Half-Blood Prince” than youthful heartache…

READ THE REST

– Kenneth Turan

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QUIZ: How well do you know the halls of Hogwarts?

STILL WANT MORE?  All “HARRY POTTER” coverage at Hero Complex

CREDITS: Images courtesy of Warner Bros

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