Harry Potter’s Gone to Pot!

harry potter 4 credit war Harry Potters Gone to Pot! Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Running time 153 minutes
Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
Starring  Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent

Am I the only person over 12 who truly believes the Harry Potter franchise has outlived its shelf life? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth and worst installment yet, is two and a half hours of paralyzing tedium, featuring another colossal waste of British talent and a plot a real witch couldn’t find with a crystal ball. The kids at Hogwarts no longer have any relevance. They have never heard of iPods, cell phones or the Internet. Yet they keep on coming, like deer ticks.

Don’t ask me what this thing is about. The 10-year-old in the next seat at the press screening told me it was her favorite of all the J. K. Rowling books, but at the end she did not applaud. In fact, this is the first Harry Potter movie I’ve ever seen that faded to black in deafening silence. The über-demon Lord Voldemort, vanquished countless times by the moppet warlocks at Hogwarts, returns from the grave in swirls of tornadolike smoke spiraling from the sky to destroy Millennium Bridge, and nothing is safe until Harry can master the clues to unraveling the secrets in the potions book that once belonged to the nonsensical “Half-Blood Prince.” Harry’s ally against the Death Eaters is Hogwarts potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent); his adversaries include the malevolent professor Severus Snape, played by snarling, prissy-mouthed Alan Rickman, and nasty Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and his gothic nightmare aunt Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). Challenged and thwarted at every turn, the other “regulars,” like Harry’s pals Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)—so cute at 11 when the series began—are now 19 and horny as gerbils. With such a bramble of romantic entanglements, they scarcely have time to notice the dragon blood dripping from the ceiling when they’re so busy making out behind the wolfsbane. The flying broomstick competitions (been there, done that) are like outtakes. Whatever suspense there is surrounds the true identity of the “Half-Blood Prince,” and if you don’t guess who that is from his first snarl, you just haven’t been paying attention. (There’s also a dull subplot, about Ron’s near-death experience with a particularly potent love potion, that could easily been cut.) Julie Walters has one line. Maggie Smith does an occasional walk-on to bark, “Go to your houses—no dawdling!” There’s not nearly enough action and entirely too much metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. The deaths of beloved characters are likely to leave the little ones bawling. Even the visual effects are tired. The underground grotto where Harry and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) take on the zombies of the undead looks like a clip from one of the previous five films. Some fine directors enhanced the earlier Potter epics; David Yates is not one of them. I pray Steve Kloves, the gifted filmmaker who scripted the first four films and now returns for the boring sixth, soon throws in the towel and gets back to his real talent for writing and/or directing original films of his own, like the memorable The Fabulous Baker Boys and Flesh and Bone.

As for Daniel Radcliffe, who has outgrown the role of Harry Potter, it’s not easy to accept him after his full-frontal nude turn on Broadway in Equus. Gee, Harry, we hardly recognized ye with thee clothes on.

rreed@observer.com