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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

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    Review: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

    By kyle | July 14, 2007



    Running time: 138 minutes
    Rated PG-13 (mild action violence)

    “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the 59th film in the popular series, brought me straight back to one of the most enduring of childhood feelings: boredom.

    It isn’t that the film is bad; it’s predictable little dramas may seem gripping and full of twists if you’re in the under-six age group, the pictures looks nice, and the kids are polite and spirited. I suspect they all have excellent bathing habits and solid dental hygiene. But with the addition of Imelda Staunton as Prof. Dolores Umbrage, who comes in to run a one-woman anti-fun Inquisition at Hogwarts, there are now officially more bad guys than there are members of the New England Patriots. The parade of subsidiary characters can’t do anything to disguise the stasis of a drawn-out story that is just killing time until the final battle between the plucky Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the noseless Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), which is still two movies off. At a climactic moment in this film, which is the shortest of the series but the most sluggish, Harry discovers a surprise prophecy that says that neither he nor Voldemort can survive while the other lives. Wait, you mean the bad guy actually has to be defeated by the good guy, or vice versa? It took 12 hours worth of the various movies to get us here? The only list “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is going to top is the rundown of the year’s top Rupert Grint films.

    If you’ve seen any other Harry Potter movie, you’ve seen this one. The foster family is mean to him, Harry is unjustly accused of troublemaking by authorities, there’s some scary magic where the kids point their wands at stuff in the dark and comedy magic where the kids point wands and make bunnies and dogs appear.  The film tells us the legend of the Order of the Phoenix, which is an association of the previous generation of magicians whose example Harry hopes to live up to, but it couldn’t be duller if it were the Order of the Sacramento.

    In the book version of “Phoenix,” Harry was supposedly becoming more complex and moody but in the movie he’s the same old dull-as-a-student-council-president Harry: though he occasionally loses his temper (in a mild, Beaver Cleaver way) because he is being blamed for the death of his friend Cedric and called a liar for saying the evil Voldemort has returned from the dead, he is as usual completely in the right, so it will take the whole movie for the others to acknowledge what we know going in. In the beginning of the movie, Harry is expelled from school, but since we’ve seen why (he used a spell off school grounds, which is against the rules, but only to save the lives of himself and his cousin Dudley, which makes it okay) and since we know Harry is not going to leave Hogwarts to become a carny or take a job sweeping floors at Arby’s, it’s a yawn to watch him undergo accusation and reinstatement. There is some mild interest in the way Voldemort attacks Harry psychologically, by invading his thoughts, but there was something a tad familiar in the way this all-powerful villain tries to seduce the young orphan into ignoring good things and stepping on over to the Dark Side.  And an opportunity is lost when Hogwarts becomes corrupted by evil via the influence of the Ministry that controls it. Instead of this being a mystery that the characters tease out, we’re simply told it has happened, and then we watch many, many examples: Prof. Umbrage nailing her nasty prohibitions against pleasure on every flat surface and demanding that students rat each other out. For about an hour. 

    The pleasure of the books is, I suppose, is in its menagerie of wonderful  characters. But in a 138-minute movie there isn’t space to develop more than seven or eight personalities. Here is a partial list of just the figures who exist to provide Harry counsel, friendship and support: Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Mad-Eye Moody, Sirius Black, Snape, Prof. McGonagall, Lupin, Mrs. Weasley, etc., etc., etc. If you’ve read the books, you may look on all of these people as old friends. But on film, some are reduced to giving fly-by performances; a tip of the broomstick and they’re gone.  Bend over to take a sip of your Pepsi, and you’ll miss appearances by three or four Oscar winners. There are so many characters to squeeze in that Harry gets to have a love interest, Cho Chang, for exactly one scene. The rest of the  movie Cho loiters in the background doing nothing, except for the last third, when she is forgotten entirely. And we’re so overstocked with villains that Helena Bonham Carter, as the evil escaped prisoner Bellatrix LeStrange, appears about 85 percent of the way through the movie, cackles briefly and is done a couple of minutes later. If you’ve got Darth Vader, give the audience Darth Vader, not Darth Vader’s assistant’s assistant’s intern. But Volde-vader , as he did in the last film, pops up only for a couple of minutes, then wanders away, which is exactly what you knew was going to happen and exactly what I wanted to do also.

    Topics: Movies | 5 Comments »

    5 Responses to “Review: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix””

    1. Kicking Over My Traces: Harry Potter and the Case of the Blahs Says:
      July 10th, 2007 at 8:40 pm

      […] Kyle Smith’s is the latest to paint the almost-grown boy wizard in shades of beige: […]

    2. Allison Says:
      February 7th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      Close minded people like you will never understand the gripping and intense story of Harry potter.

    3. Michelle Says:
      July 7th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      That is not true. People like you that have no imagination will never get Harry Potter. Try reading the books sometime. The books are NOTHING like the movies.

    4. Roop234 Says:
      June 13th, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      seriously? how could u say something like that?

    5. You suck Says:
      June 26th, 2013 at 12:54 pm