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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is extremely edgy for a PG movie -- in all ways, it's very similar to the previous two movies, which were rated PG-13. This film continues the series' trend toward darker, more intense material. For young children, the death of a major beloved character could be extremely upsetting. Other characters are bloodied, kicked, and cursed in frightening ways, and a very scary scene involving scary, skeletal characters is sure to scare the pants off of little kids. There are also some big emotional upheavals and scary attacks. And there's notably more sexuality -- albeit playfully depicted -- than in the past movies. Because the characters are now teens, much of the interaction between them and their friends centers on getting a boy or girlfriend, and there's plenty of snogging (making out). While Harry and his friends continue as strong positive role models, other characters' motives and plans become more ambiguous. And there are also a few scenes that include alcohol consumption -- including one in which a professor serves his students.
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What's the story?
In the face of Lord Voldemort's growing power at the start of HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) asks Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to help convince retired potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return to his old teaching post. Once back at Hogwarts, Dumbledore tasks Harry with befriending Slughorn -- who plays favorites -- in order to recover a crucial memory of former student Tom Riddle (who grew up to become You Know Who). Meanwhile, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) deal with their growing attraction to each other, and the Death Eaters enlist Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) to assist Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in carrying out the Dark Lord's evil bidding.
Is it any good?
David Yates, who took over the franchise with Order of the Phoenix, has created a mature, relationship-focused installment that masterfully sets the stage for the high-stakes final installments. (Deathly Hallows was so epic that it will be split into two movies.) Hardcore Potterphiles should know by now that not all of their favorite characters or scenes will make it into the film adaptations, and even movie-only fans will have to deal with no scenes set in Defense Against the Dark Arts class (Snape is finally the teacher), hardly any Neville or Weasley twins, and a bit too much foreshadowing in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
What Yates does offer is an incredibly human look at how adolescent wizards deal with their burgeoning hormones: "Won Won" lands his first girlfriend, Hermione acknowledges the extent of her undeclared feelings for Ron, and Harry realizes that his best friend's kid sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright, who really comes into her own this time), just might be his match. It's adorable -- and spot-on -- that even during the darkest times, teenagers still want to snog. Meanwhile, Broadbent is great as snobby, tipsy Slughorn, who still harbors kind thoughts for his once-favorite pupil. It's that empathy for the promising young wizard that Tom Riddle once was that makes it possible to connect the dots between Harry, Tom, and even the enigmatic Snape. As emotional as the film's climactic scene is, there's a small sense of relief in knowing that Harry still isn't alone. He has loyal, unconditional friends ready to risk their lives so that light can prevail over darkness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the best age for kids (and eager parents) to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and start getting into the Harry Potter series. Is it OK to read all the books (and see all the movies) at the same age?
What do you think of the way the movie depicts the teens' romantic relationships? Are they believable? Is the story too hormone-filled for younger viewers?
What do we learn about Voldemort's past in this movie? Does that change the way you feel about him?
If you've read the book, what parts of the novel were left out? Which were faithfully adapted? How does this movie compare to the earlier ones as an adaptation?
- In theaters: July 15, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: December 8, 2009
- Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Rupert Grint
- Director: David Yates
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 153 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: scary images, some violence, language and mild sensuality
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.