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Review: 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

For 'Harry' fans the intensity deepens at Hogwarts – as do adolescent romantic interests.

By Peter RainerFilm critic of The Christian Science Monitor / July 14, 2009

In this image released by Warner Bros., Emma Watson, center, Daniel Radcliffe, right, and Rupert Grint are shown in a scene from 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.'

Jaap Buitendjik/ Warner Bros./ AP

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In "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth cinematic installment in the "Potter" series, Harry and his Hogwarts cohorts face the most fearsome adversary of all – adolescence. Or to be more exact, adolescent romance. There's no potion strong enough to cure it.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is warming up to Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright); her brother Ron (Rupert Grint) is besieged by Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), whose ardor resembles commando raids. This does not sit well with Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), who fumes with jealousy as only she can fume.

It was inevitable that the "Half-Blood Prince" would involve itself in more Muggle-ish matters as teen romance. The lead actors in these films have grown up before our eyes, and their acting has grown up, too. There's something inherently funny about the romantic predicament of Harry and Ron and Hermione. As if it wasn't bad enough having to deal with the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters and all the rest, now they have to square off against... raging hormones.

"Half-Blood Prince" is in every way superior to its immediate predecessor, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which, like this film, was directed by David Yates. Maybe he just felt more comfortable this time around dealing with kids whose emotions were rampagingly human. He's good with the other stuff, too – the sinister elements without which "Harry Potter" wouldn't be "Harry Potter." But even here, the malevolence is more human-scaled. Hogwarts seems more solidly medieval, less like a fairy-tale aerie. The Quidditch match, a "Potter" mainstay, is more rough-and-tumble. (Can Manchester United be recruited for the series' finale?)

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