Ever since we walked in on Harry fumbling with his glowing wand under the bed sheets at the start of Azkaban, the Potter franchise has secretly been about (whisper it) s-e-x as much as anything else.
Inside the first few minutes of The Half-Blood Prince , the boy wizard is chatted up by a sexy London waitress who puts it on a plate for him. But, as ever, he’s whisked away by Dumbledore…
“Oh, to be young and feel love’s keen sting!” says Hogwarts’ headmaster, wistfully. Forget the fact The Death Eaters are on the loose. Harry, Ron and Hermione under attack from their own urges.
Harry loves Ginny Weasley (wait for the shot where she drops to her knee to tie his shoelaces) and Hermione loves Ron (you can only imagine The Ginger One’s delight on discovering he spends most of the film snogging).
Bumbling, funny and gentle, the rom-com tween heartache feels nicely played by a cast more at home with cheeky humour than dramatic heavy-lifting. But boy, does it go on.
Cramming JK Rowling’s thin mish-mash of McGuffins and dead ends into another brogdingnagian runtime (an arse-flattening 153 minutes, this one), the sixth Potter film hardly bothers with action: flashpoint set-pieces include a wind-whipping, corkscrew Quiddich match, a girl violently possessed by unseen forces and a striking Death Eater attack in the swamps. But that’s your lot.
Much-needed spikes of darkness jolt from the memory-flashbacks to Tom Riddle (creepily played by nepotist rar-rar Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), which Harry must extract from potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent).
Radcliffe still mistakes jaw-clenching for acting – but a luck potion from Slughorn uncorks his funniest, freshest acting of the franchise. They should put the kid on an IV.
So hormones trump adrenaline, until thrills finally arrive at the finale as the demise of a key character sets up the Deathly Hallows ’ upcoming double-whammy.
Dumbledore goes Gandalf on our asses, with a frightening, fiery finish that sees Harry venture into a dark, damp cave, populated by squirming white entities. Oh, you get the gist by now...
Twilight with laughs? Sort of. One of the Potter franchise’s breeziest entries yet offers flashes of darkness but lashings of teen tension. Less a movie than a set-up for next year’s epic conclusion. Bring on V-day.