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'Harry Potter': Into the woods

Published November 24. 2010 05:00PM

"Harry Potter" movies span a generation and nearly a decade, beginning with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 2001.

If you' re a fan of the movie and author J. K. Rowling's books about Hogwarts and its students and associated wizardry, the latest and seventh big screen release, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is a must-see.

Be prepared for the usual assortment of special effects; the swoosh of the time- and place-traveling trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron; charcoal plumes of brooms rocketing across the sky; and one very large snake -- which may frighten children under five.

There's lots of screen time for the trio of young wizards, as they sort things out regarding the Deathly Hallows and their own teen rivalries. You won't get much screen time with the supporting characters, including Hedwig, Harry's faithful white owl. And there is nary scene at Hogwarts School, and only one perfunctory scene with the Hogwarts Express. Rail 9 is long forgotten.

We won't attempt to elucidate the plot, which is either: A. Too convoluted to go into here; B. Too shallow to matter; C. Of chief interest to "Harry Potter" fans; or D. All of the aforesaid.

Suffice it to say, the storyline involves possession of the ultimate wand, which was buried with Dumbledore, the late head of Hogwarts, and a silver sword, which Harry and company must find and secure.

And, oh, by the way, there is the little matter of Voldemort, the evil wizard, with whom a climatic battle with Harry is looming.

For that, though, you must see "Deathy Hallows: Part 2," set for July 2011 release in 3-D.

That Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione and Rupert Grint as Ron can have so much screen time and still be interesting at their advanced ages -- Radcliffe is now 21, Watson is 20 and Grint is 22 -- attests to their acting skills, likeability and that they still look like high school seniors, rather than post-graduate students.

Still, it's a bit of a disappointment that the fine contingent of British thespians doesn't get more screen time, including Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape, Brendan Gleeson as Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore, Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, Timothy Spall as Wormtail, and, especially, Robbie Coltraine as Rubeus Hagrid.

That this cast of characters is relegated to cameos and corners of the frame is emphasized by the way the Computer-Generated Imagery of Dobby, the House Elf voiced by Toby Jones, takes over scenes that he is in.

We do see, in pivotal scenes, quite a bit of Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort, albeit with a nose that seems to have had too much cosmetic surgery; and Helena Bonham Carter, as Bellatrix Lestrange, who seems to be having a whip-cracking good time.

Odd characters, odd places, odd objects and odd activities -- the Whomping Willow; Hagrid's Hut, and Quidditch, for example -- are a big part of the delight found in "Harry Potter."

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" lacks much of the charm of its predecessors. Instead, director David Yates, who directed "Harry Potter" No. 5 and 6, and screenwriter Steve Kloves favor fighting, action sequences and musings by the Harry, Hermione and Ron as they pitch a tent -- the interior capacity of which is amusingly far larger than its exterior dimensions -- deep in the woods.

Into the woods, indeed, but "Harry Potter" isn't out of the woods yet.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1": "MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality; Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery. Run Time: 2 hr., 26 min.; Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" was filmed on location in England and Wales.

Box Office, Nov. 19: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" opened huge at No. 1 with $125.1 million, biggest opening ever for a "Harry Potter" movie and sixth-biggest all-time opening. The "Harry Potter" series has grossed an estimated $1.8 billion, second only to "Star Wars," which has grossed $1.9 billion.

2. "Megamind," $16.2 million, $109 million, three weeks; 3. "Unstoppable," $13.1 million, $42 million, two weeks; 4. "Due Date," $9.1 million, $72.7 million, three weeks; 5. "The Next Three Days," $6.7 million, opening; 6. "Morning Glory," $5.2 million, $19.9 million, two weeks; (opening Nov. 10); 7. "Skyline," $3.4 million, $17.6 million, two weeks; opening; 8. "Red," $2.4 million, $83.6 million, six weeks; 9. "For Colored Girls," $2.4 million, $34.5 million, three weeks; 10. "Fair Game," $1.4 million, $3.7 million, three weeks.

"Inside Job," a documentary by director Charles Ferguson about the 2008 global financial crisis, continues through Thursday at Civic Theatre of Allentown's 19th Street Film Series at Theatre514.

Unreel: Nov. 24:

"Tangled," an animated Walt Disney feature, retells the fairytale story of Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore, in her tower.

"Burlesque" stars Cher and Christina Aguilera in a contemporary drama about a Los Angeles neo-burlesque club.

"Faster "stars Freedom High School graduate Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a revenge plot drama that also stars Billy Bob Thornton.

"Love and other Drugs" stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in a romantic comedy directed by Edward Zwick.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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