Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

He's called a liar by his classmates. Teachers don't understand him and punish him. Other adults underestimate him. The anger pent-up in him is about to explode. Life is just unfair, UNFAIR I tell you! Typical teenager? Oh, yeah.

Except that, for this teenager, they really ARE out to get him. And when I say "They," I'm not even talking about He Who Must Not Be Named. Or the Deatheaters. There are so many more villains in this piece, they should take a number.

The most delicious of all is a woman dressed in pink: Dolores Umbridge. Working directly for the Ministry of Magic, she's at Hogwarts to make sure things are done right this time. With that little smirk and 'ahem' in a high, squeaky voice comes pure, demented evil, and certainly a force to be reckoned with in our hero's life. Award-winning actress Imelda Staunton wrings every last bit of acerbic nastiness out of the character, and joins her fellow Brits in what could only be called the British Retirement System, as the Harry Potter series has certainly brought together dozens of aging actors in the series.

Poor Harry! The great thing about this, movie #5, is that Harry starts to do something about the evil and injustice that surround him. He grapples with the good and evil within himself, and comes up swingin'. His Dumbledore's Army gets quite a bit of screen time, which is saying a lot when 600 pages have to be crammed into two hours.

Which brings me to the usual gripe about these biannual forays: they're too short. My last movie review moaned about too many cast members and too many minutes in the film. Not this time. We love all the characters, and we know they can't get their just due. So we merely smile when they fleetingly appear, and hope to see them again in the next installment.

Actor Daniel Radcliffe's range has grown with his age, and the trials and terrors of Harry's life play on his face throughout the movie. It's more difficult to judge pals Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, however, as they have so little to do in the film except occasionally utter, "Are you all right, Harry?" Michael Gambon now has a handle on Dumbledore, and the authority in his voice wins out. There are so many others who bring a real richness to the series, and I'm mostly speaking of the veteran actors who play McGonagall, Snape, and so many others.

I enjoyed the pieces of this film immensely, but they are, unfortunately, just pieces. The Order of the Phoenix is a transitional point in the sequence of books and movies. The important thing at the end of this film is to recognize that our boy is getting older and more mature, and that he has people in the magical universe who love him. It's not really enough for a stand-alone film, but it's enough for someone who has followed Harry from the beginning.

Thumb's up.


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