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Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Review: This Movie Is Not For Kids

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1., is an awesome movie. Rush right out and see it. Now. At an Imax theater if you possibly can. But leave your kids at home.

I saw it last night, and I think my date and I were the only people in the theater over 15. Partly I was eager to see it: I’m a shameless fan of the books and the films. But partly I was on a scouting mission to find out if this was a film my kids would enjoy.

I had my answer less than 5 minutes in. I’d barely finished blinking back tears as my familiar heroes said painful good-byes to their families, when the scene shifted to Voledmort holding court over the Death Eaters in his creepy lair.

Far from the cartoonish evil of comic-book supervillainy, Voldemort was real bad. And real scary. Ralph Fiennes brought the character to life in a way that chilled even a hardened movie buff like myself. Also, the actress suspeneded in mid-air over Voledemort’s dining room table, tears and stage blood smeared on her face as the bad guys tortured her, was a little too good at her job.

The scene scared and engaged me as if I were a little kid, totally sucked into it and feeling as awful as the characters do. Which is to say, I think the kids and I will watch a rerun of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone on DVD, and they can enjoy this movie when they’re a bit older.

Except my 17-year-old stepson, who I’ll take to see it at the IMAX theater this week. He’s a great excuse to go see it again.

The Boston Globe review nails what makes this movie so awesome: it’s a brave, unusual take on an adolescent action film. The special effects were as awesome as you’d expect from a Harry Potter movie, and the sweeping outdoor sets were breathtaking on the big screen. But I left the theater talking about how Polyjuice Potion reflects adolescent themes of identity and loss, trying on different faces and finding out what you can get away with, what will hurt you, and ultimately who you are. That’s partly ’cause I’m a lit geek, but also because the movie wasn’t shy about going into heavy themes instead of surfing along the surface of action shots.

It’s tempting to be annoyed with Warner Brothers for making movie adaptations of popular kids’ books that are so clearly inappropriate for kids (we’ve skipped all of them since the third). But that’s how the books go: the kids grow up, and so do the stories. These films are such a great homage to the stories they’re telling, I can’t help but love them.

That makes for great entertainment, but it means the right age for each one shifts upward. The teenagers in the audience with me are the lucky ones who grew up with these books. They’ve been just the right age to enjoy Harry Potter all along because they’re the same age as the characters. That’s pretty cool.

For my younger kids, though, these final film installments will have to wait. Especially this one, which ends – as it had to, stopping in the middle of the book – on a dark note. The heroes are licking their wounds and burying their dead, while Voldemort celebrates his triumph. It’s like the Empire Strikes Back moment of the series.

Which is to say, I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat for the next one, with it’s final victorious end.

Photo: screen shot from Deathly Hallows

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