Like most of the other screen adaptations of the fantasy series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an unwieldy thing, with too much wizardry for its running time. Yet also like its predecessors, this sixth installment has stunning production design and a strong cast, both of which make up for its lack of narrative fluidity.
The aims of Half-Blood Prince are two-fold: increase the ominous overtones in advance of the last novel and expand upon the puppy love that had begun to develop among its teen actors.
It’s too bad Half-Blood Prince has to bother with all the doomsday stuff, for the sweetest, silliest moments are those of jealousy, flirtation and mooning that involve Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint, whose wonderfully smashed face would never pass a casting director’s eye but has been grandfathered into the series by this point).
At its best, Half-Blood Prince plays like a tween version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – love potions and all. Potions play a big part in the plot here, from the one that makes Ron all googly-eyed to those taught by Professor Horace Slughorn (new cast member Jim Broadbent). Broadbent is a wonderful addition, amusingly scattered at first, then hinting at a well of deep sorrow.
Add to that the visual elements courtesy of series production designer Stuart Craig – I especially liked the birdcage within a birdcage and Dumbledore’s cache of memories – and Half-Blood Prince makes for another respectable entry. The franchise hasn’t produced a classic fantasy film yet, but hey, there are still two movies to go.