After a slight stumble, the “Harry Potter” franchise gets back a little of its luster with the latest installment, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
While the sixth chapter in the popular series from writer J.K. Rowling has some similar problems to its predecessor, it manages to inject some much needed magic and charm back into the franchise.
“Prince” picks up with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) now in their sixth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry is asked by Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to help convince a former teacher, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), to come out of retirement and return to Hogwarts as the school’s potions teacher.
When Slughorn agrees, Harry soon discovers that his return has a greater purpose - one that can help Harry and Dumbledore get one step closer to the evil Lord Voldemort.
“Prince” draws much of its strength from a strong opening scene in which death eaters destroy London’s Millennium Bridge and a final battle in the bowels of a cave off a remote island. Those moments, along with little visual touches throughout the film, bring back the element of discovery that was sorely missing from “The Order of the Phoenix.” There is more of a sense of closure with this chapter than the previous film - although it is still pretty obvious that everything continues to be a build to the inevitable final confrontation.
“Prince” isn’t without its flaws. There is a lot of growth among the child actors - the film spends a lot of time focusing on the budding romances. It is a necessary part of the story, showing the evolution of these characters, but it is also the part of the story that really slows the pace of the film - almost bringing it to a grinding halt.
To their credit, Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have all shown growth as actors. And the addition of Broadbent to the adult cast that already features solid work from Gambon, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter also helps make the flaws a little more tolerable.
“Half-Blood Prince” isn’t quite up to par with the franchise’s earlier installments like “Chamber of Secrets” and “Prisoner of Azkaban,” but it still is strong enough to set up “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” two-part finale that will hit theaters in 2010 and 2011.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Coraline” (B+), the delightfully twisted film that, with the exception of “Up,” still soars high above other 2009 family releases.
Directed by Henry Selick (the man behind “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach”), the film tells the story of a young girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) who walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers another world that parallels her own.
At first she finds herself intrigued by the new world. That intrigue quickly turns, though, when Coraline discovers dark secrets and finds herself held hostage in the new world - desperate to return home and save her real family.
“Coraline” is a lot of fun and one of the few films in the current 3-D revival that proved to be a perfect fit for the format. Fortunately, the DVD contains a 3-D version (glasses included) that will give people who didn’t see it in theaters a taste of what they missed.
Special glasses aren’t needed to strengthen the story, though, which is both charming and quite dark for a family film. “Coraline” is probably a little too dark for younger children, but if you’re looking for something a little spooky and quite original that anyone 8 years old and up can enjoy, “Coraline” is the film for you.
“Coraline” is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor and is now available on DVD.
— Back from vacation, sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton is ready to resume his busy schedule of movies and Bowling Green Hot Rods. If you want to get his instant thoughts on this weekend’s new releases “The Ugly Truth,” “G-Force” and “Orphans,” or just want to know all things Hot Rods, you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. If you’re still Twitterless, you can reach him at email@example.com.