We've grown up with Harry Potter, that fictional English boarding school lad who happens to be a wizard.
For those with children, there were first the thick J.K. Rowling books read together through drowsy bedtime eyelids, and then the movies awaited with eager anticipation season to season and experienced side by side, to savor and compare.
"Words are an inexhaustible source of magic," Professor Albus Dumbledore says in the eighth and final, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."
That rings true for Rowling, as well as readers and movie-goers.
When was the last time that the opening credits of a movie were greeted with applause? Add to that resounding applause at the conclusion of "Deathly Hallows," cheers when a particularly despicable character is done away with and you know this is one movie that connects with its audience.
The "Potter" movies are "events," even more so than "Batman" and other comic-book superhero movies. You'd have to reach for "Star Wars," with which the latest "Potter" shares genetic coding in its quasi father-son Armageddon, to find a comparable blockbuster "must-see."
The "Potter" series is a monumental achievement, alone for the computer-generated imagery alone, for example: the Quidditch matches, portrait paintings and newspaper photos of people that don't stay put, the Whomping Willow, and myriad supernatural effects.
Harry Potter went from grade school to graduation. Harry Potter became a decade-long rite of passage, going back to the first movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001), based on the first book (1997).
And so, in the latest and final installment, Harry is pitted against Lord Voldemort, who, as portrayed with ravishing menace by Ralph Fiennes, is a tragic figure who kills and lusts for power in a vain attempt to fill deep emptiness.
We learn about the mythology of the wand. It seems a magic wand chooses the person. One might interpret the wand as symbolizing a person's willpower. Actions forge character and courage.
Harry is congratulated several times for his courage. Viewing Hogwarts School under attack is akin to seeing World War II newsreel footage of the London blitzkrieg. Voldemort's verbal demands sound nothing less than the latest terrorist rants.
The final scene on the ruined grounds of Hogwarts follows a bit too familiarly the uber face-off between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in "Star Wars," complete with death rays emanating from wands rather than light sabers.
The revelation that Harry may contain portions of Voldemort's psyche is similar to "Star Wars" tenets about the "dark side"
Harry is played with a convincing, centered intensity by Daniel Radcliffe, who, it turns out, gives the British theater all-stars that populate "Potter"-ville a run for their acting acumen.
The pantheon of British thespians adds gravitas to a rather thin storyline in the screenplay by Steve Kloves, who wrote seven of the eight "Potter" screenplays.
Among the "who's who" of Brits: Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Julie Walters, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton.
Let's not forget Emma Watson as a finely-honed, plucky and now quite lovely young woman, Hermione, and Rupert Grint as the still doltish but lovable Ron.
Director David Yates, who also directed the previous three "Potter" installments, keeps pacing smooth and crisp.
He elicits genuine emotion in the movie's final scenes, as our heroes and heroine take their leave. You may shed a Snape-like tear.
Harry Potter, you will be missed.
"Harry and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images; Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama; Run time: 2 hrs., 10 min.; Distributed by Warner Bros.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" was filmed on location in Wales (the opening beach scenes) and in Leavesden Studios and Pinewood Studios, both England.
Box Office, July 15: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" opened at No. 1, setting numerous records, including highest-grossing opening weekend ever, $168.5 million, besting "The Dark Knight," which posted the previous record, $158.4 million.
2. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," $21.1 million, $302.8 million, three weeks; 3. "Horrible Bosses," $17.6 million, $60 million, two weeks; 4. "Zookeeper," $12.3 million, $42.3 million, two weeks; 5. "Cars 2," $8.3 million, $165.3 million, four weeks; 6. "Winnie the Pooh," $8 million, opening; 7. "Bad Teacher," $5.2 million, $88.5 million, four weeks; 8. "Larry Crowne," $2.5 million, $31.6 million, three weeks; 9. "Super 8," $1.9 million, $122.2 million, six weeks; `10. "Midnight in Paris," $1.8 million, $41.7 million, nine weeks
Unreel: July 22:
"Captain America: The First Avenger," PG-13: Chris Evans stars as Captain America, based on the Marvel Comics character. The captain's first mission is to combat Nazi propaganda during World War II. The fantasy film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
"Friends with Benefits," R: Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis explore an evolving relationship.
Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes