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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the epic finale of the Harry Potter movie saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, is the deadliest, most intense, and most touching installment of the lot. Because the majority of the movie is an all-out battle between Voldemort and his army against Harry and his allies at Hogwarts, there's an extremely high body count -- including the deaths of several beloved supporting characters. Most happen off camera, but several bodies are shown. In a few scenes, everyone is bloodied and injured or dead, and it's brutal to watch (a shot of dead goblins is particularly gruesome, and one character's death at the fangs of an evil snake gets pretty gory). Despite the raging battle, Ron and Hermione at last find a moment to snog and spend most of the movie holding on to each other; Harry and Ginny also share a quick kiss. And in the end, it's not the violence that viewers will take away, but the idea that every hero, no matter how brave, needs loyal friends to defeat evil and that love lives on even in the face of death. Note: For the first time, a Harry Potter movie is being shown in 3-D in some theaters, making some of the action sequences even more intense.
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What's the story?
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 begins when we last saw Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson), convalescing at Shell Cottage after Dobby died rescuing them from certain death at Malfoy Manor. Harry enlists injured goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis) to help them break into Bellatrix Lestrange's (Helena Bonham Carter) vault at Gringotts in search of more missing horcruxes. But after a death-defying escape, Harry realizes that they must return to Hogwarts to find the final items they seek. With aid from Abeforth Dumbledore (Ciarán Hinds) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), who's assembled all of their friends, the central trio goes back to a Death Eater-run Hogwarts, now led by Headmaster Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) declares all-out war on Harry, whom he's desperate to kill before Harry can destroy all of the remaining horcruxes and render him mortal again. Thus begins the climactic Battle of Hogwarts, in which Harry makes life-changing discoveries, while his friends take up wands to help him save the wizarding world.
Is it any good?
Director David Yates has been at the helm of the Harry Potter series since Order of the Phoenix, and he sends it off with a spectacular finish. He switches from Part 1's sparse, atmospheric tone to a relentlessly intense war film. Grint and Watson add some much-needed levity with their sweet romantic overtures, but while they're off fighting Death Eaters hand-in-hand, it's Radcliffe's big moment to propel the action to Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort. Shining brightly are Lewis' Neville, who, after years of being the class wallflower, proves just how brave a Gryffindor he is, and Kelly Macdonald, who plays a ghost with fiery intensity. Rickman gets his best scenes ever in a series of flashbacks that explore his true nature, and Maggie Smith is surprisingly gleeful as Professor McGonagall in warrior mode.
For once, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves' adaptation could have been even longer to properly represent crucial moments like Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) taking on Bellatrix Lestrange, or Ron and Hermione finally admitting their feelings through a kiss (neither scene is quite as heart-stopping in the film as on the page). Other sequences, like Harry's momentous walk in the Forbidden Forest, the Weasley family convening in grief, a look through Snape's memories, and even the controversial-to-readers epilogue, are all handled quite beautifully -- poignant moments of the heart to punctuate the nonstop action of the battle. Much of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is either a tearjerker or an epic battle scene -- sparks flying, wizards dueling, creatures crushing each other. It all builds up to a last indelible shot ... one that reminds us while all may be well, it's sad to know that the Harry Potter series has ended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is age-appropriate for young kids, even if they've already read the books or are familiar with the characters. How does the tone and subject matter of the series change over time?
Which characters reveal different parts of themselves in this movie? Why did they make the choices they made? How do those decisions affect Harry?
How does the development of Ron and Hermione's relationship contrast to most other teen love stories? Is a slow-burning romance as believable or exciting to watch as love at first sight?
Did the final movie live up to your expectations? Are there any other book sagas you'd be as excited to see turned into movies, or do you think it's unlikely another franchise would hold as much magical appeal?
- In theaters: July 15, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 11, 2011
- Cast: Alan Rickman, 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: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
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