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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, as has been the case with each succeeding movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has its main characters taking on bigger challenges, with darker themes and more intense danger. The climatic battle scenes with "You Know Who" and his minions are downright frightening. Spoiler alert: There's a very upsetting (but bloodless) death of someone near and dear to Harry. As a result, he grows even more introspective and angry. At the very least, he does enjoy his first kiss (no spoiler to Potterheads), and Ron and Hermione continue their flirtatious bickering.
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What's the story?
From the opening scene of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and portly dolt Dudley (Harry Melling) are attacked by Dementors, our courageous young hero has an ever-heightened awareness -- and acceptance -- of how his destiny is entwined with You Know Who's. In THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, the fifth installment of J.K. Rowling's seven-volume phenomenon, Harry, who survived his last confrontation with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) but watched school favorite Cedric Diggory perish, is no longer a popular wizard genius. The Ministry of Magic mounts a smear attack against him and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), he is nearly expelled, Dumbledore avoids him, and new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) tries to squash the idea that the Dark Lord is back. Sweetly odious Umbridge refuses to teach any defensive spells, so Hermione (Emma Watson) convinces Harry to hold secret classes in combat magic. Meanwhile, Umbridge, a child-hating, Ministry-approved enforcer, installs herself as dictator and launches a fascist campaign. In a climactic battle, Harry and friends face Voldemort's fearsome Death Eaters -- like Azkaban escapee Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and wicked Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs). There's a tragic (albeit expected) death and an even more tragic moment when Harry thinks he's alone and defeated. But Potter lovers know that Harry isn't ever alone: He has an entire world of devotees on his side.
Is it any good?
With this gripping film, there's no longer a doubt that Harry Potter -- the character, as well as the film series -- has grown up. In this dark (even by Potter standards) and captivating new adventure, the kids face increasing peril, and the thrills intensify right up to the explosive ending. The gravity of the situation takes a front seat, with bureaucratic intrigue and boot-camp magic lessons overshadowing the brief romantic interest between Harry and Cho (Katie Leung). Sure, Harry finally enjoys his first kiss, but the infatuation doesn't last.
And forget about Quidditch, because director David Yates doesn't include any game sequences in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- or much of the Hogwarts social scene, for that matter, outside of the clandestine magic lessons. Those who haven't read the novels might hope for a Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione hook-up, but apparently that's just not in the books ... yet, anyway.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix's increasingly mature themes as Harry grows into a full-blown adolescent. Why is Harry so angry? Do you think Harry and his friends act and feel like real teenagers?
Even though this movie and the last one are rated PG-13, they're heavily marketed to younger kids -- do you think that's OK, or are the later movies too scary for little kids?
Potterheads: What parts of the book this movie was based on were best depicted in the film? What got left out that you would have included? What scenes included heavy foreshadowing of things to come?
How do the characters in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, especially the members of Dumbledore's Army, demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: July 10, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: December 11, 2007
- 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: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images.
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