Reporting Eric Henderson
I didn’t like the first half of the seventh Harry Potter movie. At all. Tedious wasn’t the word for it.
“Superfluous cash grab” was closer to the mark.
You could say it was not with the highest of anticipation I approached what many have been calling “Harry Potter Part 7.5.” I hadn’t seen each and every one of the previous movies, but Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban aside, all the other ones I’ve been subjected to have seemed plot-pointy and overlong. As a series, Potter has seemed incidental to a numbing degree, and the first installment of the final book Deathly Hallows was the worst offender.
That the exact same cast and the exact same crew (and, technically, the exact same book) could result in a movie as taut, exciting and expedient as its first half was meandering and dull must count as a bigger feat of magic than any pupil attending Hogwart’s has ever summoned. A comparatively trim 130 minutes, Deathy Hallows Part 2 sacrifices epic overtures in exchange for genuine, lean action sequences and the mundane, buttoned-down approachability that presumably brought so many readers to the Potter fold in the first place.
And I don’t think that’s just 10 years of waiting for the movie series to be over with talking.
Everyone who absorbs themselves in J.K. Rowling’s series of books feels they’ve grown up with them. I’ve heard it said time and again that she tailored her writing to reflect the maturation of both the series’ characters and, presumably, its readers. That’s true to a point, but the “darkness” of the final installments is still firmly stationed within the comforting Star Wars-ian simplicity of good vs. evil. And the sophistication of Deathly Hallows is probably not giving Philip Roth or Don DeLillo any sleepless nights.
Nor should it. The reason that the final Deathly Hallows movie works, then, is that it fully embraces the fact that Harry Potter is indeed, or at least winds up being, a series of kids’ books for adults. Rowling’s biggest weakness as a storyteller — her habit for setting up checklists of things Potter must do to arrive at the next book — are still present, but the systematic destruction of Voldemort’s horcruxes is treated as the backdrop to discovering the forces that have guided Potter’s journey up to this point.
And that gives Alan Rickman a chance to tear your muggle heart out as Severus Snape, the books’ most compellingly shifty character. If the books make their readers feel as though they’ve graduated into adulthood, Rickman’s performance makes the film series arrive at an emotional maturity I wasn’t quite ready for. It’s a gem, closely followed-up by Maggie Smith’s.
It’s a tad ironic that Potter‘s counterprogramming this weekend is Disney’s Winnie the Pooh … reboot? That’s because I imagine this might be another kids’ movie that adults will probably enjoy more than the rugrat set.
Wearing its old-school 2-D animation like a badge of honor, this new Pooh is a svelte endeavor at 69 minutes, a scant running time that almost seems to confess that today’s children aren’t likely to sit still for such an analog-style experience. (Indeed, at my screening, the mother sitting in front of me repeatedly tried to engage her children in the movie, singing along to the immortal “Winnie the Pooh” theme song, while the younger ones resorted to running up and down the aisles.)
Pooh, which amalgamizes three separate tales from around Pooh Corner, seems barely there, but it’s also refreshing and nostalgic. If kids won’t sit still for a movie that revolves so heavily on the written word (Pooh, et al, frequently interact with the storybook text, as though living inside a book), I guess it’s their loss. They can always catch up with the Harry Potter books when they reach 30.