By CAINE GARDNER
In the latest installment of the Harry Potter saga, it as evident as ever -- Harry and his friends are growing up. Romance is abound in Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione's (Emma Watson) world, as is the rise of the Dark Lord Voldermort.
The magic world is still reeling from the battle at the Ministry of Magic and the doubts about Albus Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) ability to protect Hogwarts are at an all-time low. The Deatheaters are wreaking havoc on both the magic and muggle world alike.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
In search of an edge over Voldermort, Dumbledore enlists Harry in an attempt to lure Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) back to Hogwarts. Slughorn holds a memory that could very well tip the balance in the battle against the Dark Lord.
The students return to Hogwarts to find the school under a magical lockdown, more indications that the threat of Voldermort is a prevalent as ever.
As clear as the unrest in the magic world is the fact that Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is up to something. Slinking through darkened hallways and disappearing behind doors, Malfoy has discovered a way to bypass the spells protecting Hogwarts in the Room of Requirement. He has a score to settle with Harry, a score that ultimately puts the entire school in jeopardy.
After Harry and Dumbledore learn the secrets Slughorn's memory holds, they realize that extenquishing the Dark Lord will me a more daunting task that previously thought. What the duo needs is time and that is a luxury they don't have.
The film ends with the factions of good and evil facing off, a patriarch falling and the stage being set for Harry, Ron and Hermione and their final push to vanquish the Dark Lord forever.
Not only is the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione fighting the forces of darkness, they are struggling with life as teenagers. Love is a central theme in the sixth film, with more scenes of kissy face and romance than foreboding malevolence.
Radcliffe, Grint and Watson are better than ever in their roles. The comfortable confidence their exude makes belief in their characters easy. The regal quality Gambon brings to the role of Dumbledore is amazing, as is Broadbent's bumbling, quirky take on Professor Slughorn.
It's also nice to see Felton have more to do than look sulky sullen. Costume designer Jany Temime clad Felton in all black, giving the figurehead of Slytherin a more ominous presence.
The film is perhaps the most sophisticated of the franchise, but make no mistake -- it's not a quick ride. The films feels every bit its 2 hour and 33 minute run time and some might find the leisurely pace unappealing.
Final Cut: Half Blood Prince is sure to spark discussions. Beloved portions of the book have been omitted, but the essence of Potter remains strong.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent
Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (Novel)
In theaters now