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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, the second-to-last installment in the epic Harry Potter movie saga is the darkest, most intense yet. It has the highest body count of any Potter film, including the deaths of several recurring characters -- some of which are particularly emotional and upsetting. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and their friends are bloodied, injured, and cursed. In one startling "jump" scene, Voldemort's giant killer snake bursts out of an old woman's body; there's also a particularly disturbing torture scene in which a major character is branded with an insult. Expect a bit of sensuality, including lots of longing looks and protective embraces between Ron and Hermione, a passionate snog between Harry and Ginny, and a scene of "ghost" versions of Harry and Hermione tormenting Ron with a sensual kiss (they appear to be nude, and you can see their torsos, but it's quite blurry/misty). Despite the amped-up angst and violence, the characters prove again and again that unconditional friendship, loyalty, and love can survive even the most harrowing of threats.
What's the story?
With Professor Dumbledore dead and the Ministry of Magic under Lord Voldemort's control at the start of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) embark on a dangerous mission to search for five missing horcruxes (fragments of Voldemort's soul). Wanted and on the run, the trio -- with only Dumbledore's bequests of a children's book, a golden snitch, and a mysterious light-catcher to guide them -- go in search of their first horcrux (Slytherin's locket). Cut off from the rest of the wizarding world, their mission is complicated by stress, fear, and frustration ... which leads to friction and confrontation. But interpersonal matters fade in comparison to threats from Death Eaters, Snatchers, and the Dark Lord's other supporters -- including the Malfoy family and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). Help eventually comes in unexpected forms -- but so does tragedy. Meanwhile, Voldemort is on the hunt himself, not just for Harry, but also for something he believes will aid him in his goal to kill the Chosen One.
Is it any good?
The movie alternates between being a frenetic, nail-biting thriller and a slow-moving adolescent relationship drama set against a beautifully shot, expansive backdrop. Director David Yates, back for his third Potter film, speeds through the action sequences early in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 -- like the fantastic Seven Potters scene, in which six of Harry's friends masquerade as him so that they can help move him to safety. But the second act, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are camping, hiding, and waiting for inspiration can feel sluggish. The series' most fervent fans may feel disappointed that some scenes and characters were barely in the movie; it would have been great to see more of Remus, the Weasleys (especially the twins and Ginny), Neville (who only gets one line), Krum, Dean, and more. And an entire review could be dedicated to all of the important details in the novel that didn't make the cut.
But despite the lack of some of fans' favorite characters and book details, there are fabulous supporting performances by Bill Nighy as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimegour; Rhys Ifans as Quibbler editor Xenophilous Lovegood; Toby Jones as selfless, noble Dobby; and Evanna Lynch, who's always been pitch-perfect as delightfully loopy Luna Lovegood. There are some great moments of physical comedy, too. As always, though, the heart of the movie comes down to Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson, all of whom give touching, nuanced portrayals as they deal with complicated emotions and terrifying circumstances. Grint in particular is finally able to show some depth as he struggles to balance his love for Hermione, his jealousy of Harry, and his general sense of insecurity. These aren't three kids any more: They're a 17-year-old hero and his best friends, willing to give up everything to save the wizarding world. It's a massive undertaking to depict, so here's hoping Part 2 provides an appropriately awesome ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is an appropriate movie for younger kids, even if they've seen or read the books. Discuss whether your child is truly ready for this movie, which is very dark and disturbing at times. (And for more, check out our age-by-age guide to Harry Potter.)
Why does Harry need help on his journey? What do Hermione and Ron offer him that no one else can? Can you think of other movie/literary heroes who require a lot of help on their life-or-death journeys?
How does Ron's departure affect Harry and Hermione? How did the locket horcrux torment Ron, and what did it confirm about his self-esteem? Did he redeem himself by his return?
If you've read the book, what parts of the novel were left out? Which were faithfully adapted? How did you feel about the characters who died in the movie?
- In theaters: November 19, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: April 12, 2011
- Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
- Director: David Yates
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 150 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality
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