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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Alternate Title: The Winds of (Wizard) War

Story: All wizarding eyes are once again on Harry Potter as he returns (barely) to Hogwarts for his fifth year.  He claims the evil Voldemort, thought dead, has now returned.  The Ministry of Magic disagrees and mounts an extensive propaganda campaign to discredit Harry and anyone else who disagrees with the party line (sound familiar?).  Harry's adult allies, members of the secret Order of the Phoenix, prepare for the coming war, but 15--year-old Harry isn't allowed to join.  Hogwart's new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, is clearly a stooge for the Ministry of Magic and eager to seize control of the school.  Harry's unflagging ally, Headmaster Dumbledore, is avoiding him.  And then there's pretty classmate, Cho Chang... The plot thickens (and darkens) as Harry and his friends rebel against authority, form secret alliances and discover the opposite sex.  Who ever said being a teenager was easy?

Book Five is the longest of the "Harry Potter" books, and while screenwriter Michael Goldenberg does a good job winnowing down the mammoth tome to a 138-minute movie, the film still feels truncated and is probably best enjoyed by fans who have read the book.  It's not bad; it's perfectly entertaining on its own, but I think the middle films in the saga naturally suffer from being, well, the middle part of the very long story.  Thank goodness Chris Columbus isn't still helming the films- Three, Four and Five have all benefited from strong direction and are, in my opinion, much better than One and Two. 

Acting: Daniel Radcliffe continues to develop as an actor; it's fun watching his progression from the first Harry Potter movie until now.  Evanna Lynch does a great job as the spacey Luna Lovegood.  With so much focus on Harry as a teenager, not a lot of attention is paid to the adults (kind of like life with real teenagers).  Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman and Emma Thompson are all terrific, though not onscreen nearly enough for me.  Michael Gambon is gradually erasing the long shadow left by Richard Harris' Dumbledore, and making the role his own.The standout performance is easily that of Imelda Staunton who is sensational as Dolores Umbridge.  From her over-the-top wardrobe to the little titter she gives at the end of her sentences, she's the personification of bureaucratic evil.

Predilection: I love the "Harry Potter" books and "Order of the Phoenix" is my favorite so far.  (And I'm still disappointed I didn't get a letter when I was ten to attend Hogwarts... why can't there be an adult education program there?)

Critters: Lots- the students' familiars- owls, cats, etc. A big black dog (Harry's godfather, in disguise).  Lots of magical creatures.  I have to give a special mention to the calculatingly adorable mewling kittens on collector plates in Umbridge's office.  Yick.

Food: Lots of food at the student meals.  Some magical "treats" made by the Weasley twins.

Blatant Product Placement: ot being familiar with the popular brands of the Wizarding World, I couldn't tell you if there was any.

Soundtrack: Perfectly fine.  Can't remember it.

Opening Titles: Brief.

Visual Art: Can I mention the mewling kitten collector plates again here, please?  And lots of portraits in Hogwarts, complete with moving subjects.  Watch for the black-suited gentlemen getting tipped out of theirs.

Theater Audience: Nine-thirty on a Saturday- filled with 20- and 30-somethings, most of whom were "Harry Potter" fans.  I went with four friends, including the birthday girl, Erica.  Happy birthday

Weather: In the movie?  What?  What kind of category is this?

Sappy Factor: Todd (my husband, who saw it separately- hi, honey!  I miss you!) said he got a little teary-eyed at the big climactic moment, but then he's a sap.  Actually, it's not really a sappy moment so I shouldn't judge.  Not really sappy at all.

Quirky Meter: Most of the film, not really.  For Luna Lovegood, it goes to 11.

Squirm Scale: The Dementors in the opening scene are pretty scary.

Drift Factor: I confess, I did doze for about 10 minutes in the middle, but it was because I was really tired.  Plus, I have trouble staying awake in movies that start after 8PM.

Predictability Level: I can't say, as I read the book so it was all predictable to me.

Tissue Usage: You should ask Todd.  Tee hee.

Oscar Worthy: Maybe for art direction.  I loved the look of the film.

Soap Box: This film definitely captured JK Rowling's agenda from the book- very much about the evils of the Establishment and fighting the good fight, even against those who claim to be acting in your best interest.  Every time Umbridge posted a new law, forbidding some kind of freedom, I got a chill.

Nit Picking: The big climactic fight was over too quickly for me.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for the Patronus lesson scene.

Length: A long 138 minutes.