'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' begins the end

There must be a spell to be cast that would get this Harry Potter saga over with: "acceleratus plotum," or some prig Latin like that. • After nine years and now seven movies (with an eighth arriving in July), the celebrated boy wizard's most apparent change is in height and vocal timbre. Nothing in the Hogwarts manual covers puberty. Harry is still determined to hunt down and kill Lord Voldemort, who in turn has had Harry in his sights at least twice and, like a James Bond villain, boasted so long that his prey got away.

The self-perpetuating mythology continues in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and darn if it isn't starting to resemble the Twilight saga. That is, if Edward ate once in a while and wore glasses, and Jacob was a ginger-haired mouth breather. Hermione and Bella are pretty much interchangeable. They're all hanging around bluish-gray and gloomy forests where beasties dwell, although with the Potter kids in a much comfier tent.

Gone are the Quidditch games and hydraulic staircases of Hogwarts, and with them much of the toy box wonder of Harry's quest. Part 1 of Deathly Hallows thrusts our heroes into the (sort of) real world, where Voldemort's legion of Death Eaters is killing off whatever Muggles aren't being enslaved. Harry and friends are searching for the remaining Horcruxes containing portions of Voldemort's soul to destroy. Best. Scavenger hunt. Ever.

More than anything, director David Yates — mimicking J.K. Rowling's dutiful final book — allows curtain calls for nearly every character that waved a wand or dodged a death bolt in the previous films. They sit somberly around evil-conference tables listening to Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) repeat himself, or pop into a scene to fret with Harry and depart as abruptly.

Similar complaints were registered about the book, although you can't blame Rowling for wanting to say goodbye to such profitable friends, or fans for whom a glimpse of Remus Lupin triggers fond memories from another novel/movie. We can blame the decision to break Rowling's finale into two films, a mercenary move no matter what Warner Bros. proclaims.

In doing so, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves retain scenes and details, padding the running time and throwing off the film's rhythm. A lot of time is spent in that forest with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) rehashing what they must do and why, and in Ron's case, bailing out with a pout. Anytime something dangerous occurs, one has a sorcery solution and the others deem it brilliant. Just like the past few films.

Age hasn't been kind to the thespian abilities of Watson and Grint, she of the over-rehearsed line deliveries and he with an A-to-B range. On the other hand, Radcliffe is maturing well on screen. He'll do fine as far away from Harry as he can get with future role choices.

Part 1 of Harry Potter's long goodbye is technically impressive as usual, especially an animated shadow play explaining the whole Deathly Hallows myth. I'd like to see more of the battle play out in the Muggle world, as with a thrilling London diner showdown between wands and wickedness (or the Death Eater air raid in the previous film). Occasionally a comical touch works, like the heroes shape-shifting into adults, and Ron's awkward return to normal.

But the good stuff doesn't prevent this film from being little more than what must be done before better stuff happens. Warner Bros. even uses footage from Part 2 in trailers for Part 1, so you know they're aware of it. I can't wait for July to get here — or better yet August, when Harry's saga is finally put to bed.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at tampabay.com/blogs/movies.

Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Grade: B-

Director: David Yates

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Warwick Davis

Screenplay: Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling

Rating: PG-13; scary images, fantasy violence

Running time: 146 min.

Want to see it?

There will be plenty of midnight screenings tonight, but you might want to call ahead or buy tickets online just to make sure a theater near you isn't sold out.

For theaters and times, see Pages 6-7 or our movie site at tampabay.com/things-to-do/movies.

Harry Potter Experience

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 opens in the IMAX Dome at MOSI with Hogwarts-style classes and other activities in the lobby. See magic tricks and visit carts filled with magic potions and creepy magical supplies. $11.95, $9.95 seniors, $8.95 ages 2-12. Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6000. The midnight showing tonight is sold out, but other times include 1:40, 4:25, 7:10 and 9:55 p.m. Friday through Wednesday and more beyond. See mosi.org.

Sensory Friendly Films

Each month, AMC Theatres partners with the Autism Society of America to give families an opportunity to enjoy films in an environment that is friendly and safe for children and adults with autism. This month the film is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The movies show at 10 a.m. Saturday at AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa, (813) 243-4881, and AMC Woodlands in Oldsmar, (727) 771-2883, in the bay area. Regular movie admission.

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' begins the end 11/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:03am]

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