3.5 out of 5 stars (Above Average)
Okay, this is the first Harry Potter movie where Harry doesn’t get to play his favorite game, Quidditch. Besides a few eerie scenes, it was pretty good. I just finished reading the book, and I am wondering if I should have read it at all because they did not include a lot of the information in the movie. However, if you don’t read the book, you won’t get a lot of the movie.
The film opens up with Dudley teasing Harry and Harry’s dead mother, when suddenly, Dementors (happiness-sucking creatures) attack Dudley and Harry in a tunnel. Harry saves Dudley by producing a patronus charm (a circle of light that propels dementors). When Harry gets home, his Uncle Vernon tries to kick him out, but Aunt Petunia says he must stay. Harry also gets a notice that he will be expelled from his school, Hogwarts, which tops off a horrible, lonely summer in which Harry’s friends haven’t been writing to him at all.
Nevertheless, old favorites, Moody, Lupin, and a new witch called Tonx come to rescue him and take him to the Order of the Phoenix, where Harry finds Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny. He also sees his Godfather, Sirius Black, who has been on the run from the Ministry of Magic ever since he got out of Azkaban. Harry has to go to a hearing for his sentence to see whether or not he will be expelled from Hogwarts. Surprisingly, our hero makes it through his trial and gets to go to school!
From the moment Harry steps into the Great Hall of Hogwarts, he meets a “sweevil” (sickening, sweet and evil) Defense-Against-the-Dark-Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, who quickly makes Harry’s life miserable. She gives Harry detention after he shouts out the truth about Voldemort being back in power. She makes him write, “I must not tell lies,” numerous times with a special quill that uses his own blood as ink. I liked Imelda Staunton, who they picked to be Umbridge. I hated her character of course, but the actress was superb at being evil. I also liked Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange, a very bad follower of “He Who Must Not Be Named.”
If you’ve seen movies 3 and 4 you will probably understand some of this, but reading the book gives you more background information. It seemed a lot shorter than 2 hours and 18 minutes to me, so I must have really liked it. I’m not recommending this for little kids, who might not understand all of the angst that’s in the film.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and some frightening images.