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Harry Potter's grand finale

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4 stars
(PG-13)

Here it is, the grand finale, the last Harry Potter movie ever ... until somebody decides to reimagine the series in 12 - 15 years. So does the highly-anticipated wrap-up live up to expectations? Why yes, yes it does. The first few minutes are slow, and there are slow moments every now and again throughout the film's two hour, ten minute running time. But the production has a great building sense of apocalyptic drama, with welcome moments of humor to keep the solemnness from becoming oppressive.

AlexandreDesplat's score is excellent. The visuals range from storybookish, but evocative to flat-out stunning. Steve Kloves' screenplay is a model of efficiency, and David Yates' direction is solid. The acting is top notch - no surprise considering the franchise's combination of a who's who of Britain's best actors and a group of winning newcomers who made the transition from childhood to near-adulthood look easy.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is terrifically entertaining, and I nearly joined the sneak preview audience in their hearty applause at the end. This says a lot, because for the most part, I didn't know what the hell was going on.

In my review of Deathly Hallows: Part 1 last November, I wrote, "I haven't read any of the books in J.K. Rowling's Potter series. I've seen all the movies once, enjoyed them to varying degrees and never felt a pressing need to see any of them a second time. Basically, I'm a tourist in the world of Harry Potter." Then I added, "To be honest, I've felt like a tourist for most of my time on this world, too. I wonder if that's common?"

See? An honest statement about my critical point of view followed by a poignant personal moment. Pretty good, eh? You know, I've won awards for this stuff.

But I digress, primarily to avoid wasting paragraphs with a plot description you neither want nor need. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 assumes you've seen the rest of the Potter movies and rightly so. It barrels full steam ahead, with characters and backstories all over the place. If you don't know what's going on, it's because you weren't paying attention before, bub. Like me.

Here's all I knew: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), with the help of Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), is desperately trying to destroy the Horcruxes that contain pieces of the evil Voldemont's (Ralph Fiennes) soul. That's all I really needed. The movie swept me away so completely that my confusion seemed incidental. I spotted a lot of famous, beloved faces that came and went too fast. Ah, but Maggie Smith stayed for a few minutes. Nice to see her again.

I wondered about two scenes. Perhaps the Potter fans reading this can explain them to me. First, there's a scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione get wet and the guys change shirts, baring their torsos briefly while poor Hermione just stands and shivers. What was that all about?

Second, and I'll phrase this carefully to avoid spoilers, if a person is playing Monopoly and has a Get Out of Jail Free card, why would they be shaken to the bone at the prospect of going to jail? I mean, I get that jail is no picnic, even for a short visit, but when you've GOT THE GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD ... Would somebody explain that to me?

Hope you enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I like it enough that I plan to watch the whole series someday. And if the movie can excite a tourist like me, imagine the fun you're going to have.

Related Film

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Official Site: harrypotter.warnerbros.com/harrypotterandthedeathlyhallows/mainsite/index.html

Director: David Yates

Producer: David Heyman, David Barron, J.K. Rowling and Lionel Wigram

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, CiarĂ¡n Hinds, John Hurt, Matthew Lewis, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright and Warwick Davis

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