Sunday, July 15, 2007

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‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’

Rating: PG-13

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 12 and older.

…. (out of five stars)

Running time: 120 minutes

Common Sense review: There’s no longer a doubt that, with the advent of “The Order of the Phoenix,” Harry Potter — the character, as well as the film series — has grown up.

From the opening scene, in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his portly dolt of a cousin 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.

At Hogwarts, Harry, who survived his last confrontation with Voldemort (a disfigured Ralph Fiennes) but watched school favorite Cedric Diggory perish, is no longer a popular wizard genius. The Ministry of Magic has mounted a smear attack against him, and Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) are out to squash the idea that the Dark Lord is back.

Since the sweetly odious Professor Umbridge refuses to teach any defensive spells, Hermione (Emma Watson) convinces Harry to hold secret, extracurricular classes in combat magic.

As for the film’s intensified peril, the climactic battle at the Department of Mysteries is a real nail-biter. Harry and his friends at first don’t seem like a match for Voldemort’s fearsome Death Eaters, but they impressively hold their own. 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.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that even children who can’t read know about Harry Potter, and some children who are too young for the content will want to see this fifth Potter movie. As has been the case with each succeeding movie, as the central characters have gotten older and taken on bigger challenges, the themes darken, the danger becomes more intense, and the climactic battle scenes with Voldemort and his minions are downright frightening.

Families can talk about the movies’ 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? Also, even though this movie and the last one are rated PG-13, they’re heavily marketed to younger children — do you think that’s OK? What parts of the book were best depicted in the film? What was left out that you would have included? What scenes included heavy foreshadowing of things to come?

Sexual content: Harry has his first kiss; Ron and Hermione continue their thinly veiled flirtation.

Language alert: Mild oaths.

Violence alert: Scary images of Dementors, Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort. Angry centaurs drag a character away. Professor Umbridge severely punishes Hogwarts students using a method that feels a lot like torture. A character is attacked by a large snake, with somewhat bloody results. The depiction of the battle at the Department of Mysteries is intense, and one key character is killed.

Social-behavior alert: Harry’s friends bravely agree to practice defensive spells to help him ward off Voldemort and his evil cohorts. Harry, his friends and the Order of the Phoenix members act in a courageous, selfless manner. The movie’s key lessons are that it’s your choices and the actions you take that define you and that friends, family and love make you more powerful than even the strongest evil.

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