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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

July 27, 2009 at 10:32 AM

Revisiting the “Half-Blood Prince”: Is Elvis in the building?

I went back to “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” the other day, accompanying someone who hadn’t seen it already (and because two and a half hours in an air-conditioned theater seemed like a really, really good idea). Funny how you notice different things on a re-watching. A few thoughts, on a movie that’s every bit as good the second time around:
— It must be something about all that proper English pronunciation, but I could have sworn that at least two characters addressed Albus Dumbledore as “Elvis.” This may have been wishful thinking, just because “Elvis Dumbledore” would be the coolest name ever.
— An indication of the depth of the casting in this franchise: The great Gemma Jones, a fine British actor best known for playing the heroine’s mother in “Sense and Sensibility” and the “Bridget Jones” movies, returns in “Half-Blood Prince” as Madame Pomfrey — and gets no dialogue, one close-up, and perhaps 45 seconds of screen time at best. You can imagine the phone call to her agent from the movie’s casting people: “Well, the good news is, we want her in the movie . . . ”
— I hate to pick on a teenager, but unfortunately Bonnie Wright’s lackluster performance as Ginny Weasley is the weak link in the film. It’s a reminder of how lucky the producers were in their main characters — when you cast a child of 9 or 10 for a recurring role, you don’t really know if/how he or she will grow as an actor. Wright is a lovely girl but an inexpressive presence, particularly compared to Emma Watson (whose development as an actor over the last eight years has been remarkable) and to the sparkling, brief supporting performances by Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Jessie Cave (Lavender Brown) and Anna Shaffer (Romilda Vane). The filmmakers seem aware of the problem: Ginny’s role has been strangely minimized, and one key emotional scene (when Ginny comforts a weeping Harry near the end) is carefully arranged so that we don’t see Wright’s face.
— Anybody else notice how very old Draco Malfoy is suddenly looking? Tom Felton, the actor, is only 21, so it’s a makeup/camera trick, and is quite haunting — he seems suddenly to be carrying the weight of many years.
— Helena Bonham Carter is truly awesome. That is all.

Is Elvis in the building? Michael Gambon as the wise Dumbledore (photo credit: Jaap Buitendjik, copyright 2009 Warner Bros.)

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