Movie Review: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Party 2″

The finale to the Harry Potter saga is, like most of the films in the series, a bit of a slog. But it’s a generally satisfying slog — two hours of wrapping up loose ends, saying fond, if not exactly tearful farewells and Harry facing his destiny with “You Know Who.”

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ is all deadly serious stuff — Harry’s dogged pursuit of the Horcruxes, the evil talismans that give Lord Voldemort his power.  As such, it’s a good half hour before we get a laugh, with only three or four more in the last 90 minutes. But we’re here to see Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) meet his fate, not to hear Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) beat off evil wizards attacking Hermione (Emma Watson) with “That’s my GIRLFRIEND.”

Harry is being hunted by Voldemort, so he decides the best defense is a good offense. He will track down Voldemort’s Horcruxes and progressively weaken the dark lord as he does. Harry makes a deal with a goblin, raids the bank vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) in a scene designed to inspire a theme park ride and makes an escape on the back of a dragon (another theme park ride). Voldemort rallies his minions and launches an all-out assault on Hogwarts.

Director David Yates, the British TV vet entrusted with the last of the Potter pictures, makes this a whispered movie of quiet close-ups, which is what television is — a close-up medium. This allows the actors to act, and many — from Ralph Fiennes, who finally registers underneath that Voldemort mask, to Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and especially Maggie Smith (looking 20 years younger) really deliver. The film tries to bring in most every actor who has popped up in the series — a veritable checklist for fans. But with Emma Thompson here for a single one line scene and her fellow Oscar winner Jim Broadbent used as set dressing, that’s a little frustrating.

It’s nice to see the ancient John Hurt, as Ollivander, the wand merchant, give Harry the bad news.

“He is after you Mr. Potter. I am afraid you don’t stand a chance.”

The newcomer here is the great Ciaran Hinds, playing the late headmaster Dumbledore’s estranged brother.

“Do yourself a favor, boy,” he growls. “Go home. Live a little longer.”

But Harry won’t, and with the stoic Ron and plucky Hermione by his side, he does those things that made him beloved the world over. He perseveres. He displays compassion. He risks his life for others. The boy wizard has made a great hero.

The script is the usual cacophony of odd names, odd props and odder spells. Fiennes has a habit of turning his point-with-his-wand moments into something that sounds like Homer Simpson after a bender.

“Fizzzrrrrrwowwowww” he slurs, and some vassal or other explodes in a puff of digital ether. Still, it’s worth the price of admission to hear Fiennes’ take on what Voldemort’s giggle would sound like.

This isn’t one of the best films of the series, more like a comfortable mid-level one, rather like the “”Lord of the Rings” finale.

It’s convoluted. It’s overly complicated. It’s like a soap opera in that few characters ever really die (though “Hallows 2″ has quite the body count). The honored dead keep coming back to advise Harry. That robs this film of the pathos of “Hallows 1.” There isn’t a scene in it that matches Dobby’s death or Hermione’s farewell to her family (she “Obliviated” herself from their memory, to protect them).

But though disorderly and lacking emotional punch, “Hallows” still wraps up in decent enough fashion. It gives us chases, fights and moments with our heroes.  And the real magic of the Radcliffe, Watson and Grint performances is that over a decade and eight long films, they soldiered on and made us want to as well. That in itself is quite a magical trick.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermoine), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Rupert Grint (Ron), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix), Alan Rickman (Snape)

Credits: Directed by David Yates, written by Steve Kloves, based on the J.K.  Rowling novel, produced by David Barron, David Heyman and J.K. Rowling. A Warner Brothers release. Running Time: 2:10

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