Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Blockbusters: Bruno vs. Harry


In the last week, I've seen two of this summer's most widely anticipated movies. For me, Harry comes out on top.

First, Bruno. The sequel to Borat was "eh, good I guess, not great." Beware of the gratuitous male full frontal nudity, and the thin plot made it difficult to accept that you had paid to see this movie as opposed to watching clips from the Ali G. show on your computer at home. Also, the Bruno character wasn't as likable as Borat, so the gag jokes were just for shock without any character development to redeem or substantiate it.

The best part about the Bruno movie? I thought the guerrilla marketing was hysterical. An assless chaps clad Bruno landing balls-first in Eminem's face at the MTV Movie Awards? Vundervul. ("Wonderful" with my German accent.)

For me, Harry takes the cake. Maybe I'm biased. (Ok, I'm biased.) But I thought the sixth installment was really fun, entertaining, and maintained the integrity of the series. A lot of the reviews have focused on the teenage romances portrayed in the film, and I thought it was a bit much as a major theme, and yet I totally enjoyed it.

It's also just a delight to watch the characters age on the screen. Hermione is hot! Ginny Weasley, not so hot. It's fascinating to think these were once kids who were cast at age 11 without anyone really knowing how they'd turn out as actors or looks-wise. And, to the best of my knowledge as only a casual Potterite, none of the actors have been re-cast. For the first time, there were moments in this movie when Daniel Radcliffe produced some really good acting bits.

From a Washington Post review, which I couldn't agree with more:

It's hard to blame "Half-Blood Prince" screenwriter Steve Kloves or director David Yates for focusing on the romance. After all, as young-adult adventures go, the sixth book in the Harry Potter series is awfully light on the adventure, offering only one action sequence at the end of its exposition-packed 652 pages. It must have seemed a daunting challenge to adapt for an audience of casual moviegoers who don't know a quaffle from a bezoar. The film's sacrifice of Horcruxes in favor of hormones yields some comic highlights: The three leads, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione), give their most charming performances to date. Ron is particularly funny under the addling effects of a love potion, and Hermione is sad and sweet in a moment of romantic disillusionment, sitting at the bottom of a set of stone stairs, conjuring a flock of twittering birds to circle above her head.

All of which is to say that "Half-Blood Prince," with its romantic triangle (square? pentagon?), its Quidditch high jinks, its gorgeous production design and its bang-up final action sequence, might be the most enjoyable Harry Potter movie yet for people who don't particularly care about Harry Potter movies.

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