'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I'
Director: David Yates
Rated: PG-13 for action and some language
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter
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Common Sense Media rating: On for 12+
Moviefone Mama Says: The Chosen One (Radcliffe) is on a mission, and with Dumbledore dead, he needs his best friends Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) to help him track down and destroy the missing horcruxes (those pesky bits of You Know Who's soul that are the key to defeating him). This is definitely the darkest of the Potter movies, full of intense and upsetting sequences and the highest body-count of the seven films. Because of some of the deaths and torture scenes, this is not for the precocious little kiddies who are reading the books at six, seven or eight. Beautifully shot and incredibly well-acted, this penultimate installment in the Potter saga is half nail-biting thriller, half lyrical relationship drama meets "road movie." The three young actors do their finest work depicting a mature emotional range -- from fear and frustration to jealousy and horror. It's a perfect pick for parents and their tween or teen book fans.
Did You Know?: Handsome Bill Weasley is played by Domhnall Gleeson, who in real life is the son of Brendan Gleeson, or as Potter fans know him, "Mad-Eye" Moody.
Parent Concerns: This is a tough call for those with upper-elementary-aged kids who've read the books, because there are several disturbing scenes and deaths in the movie. Not only do characters meet their end via wand-point, but one beloved creature dies in a particularly heart-wrenching scene after being stabbed, and one major character is tortured and branded. Other upsetting sequences include a jump-worthy moment when Voldemort's snake Nagini attacks; a Hogwarts professor is humiliated and Avada Kedavra'd; a popular character loses an ear to a curse; and Harry, Hermione and Ron are chased and snatched and tormented in many life-or-death scenes.
Here are three talking points to extend your moviegoing experience.
1. Heroes Need Help: Remember eighth-grade English when you learned about Carl Jung's "hero's journey"? Harry Potter is one of literature's best examples of the hero archetype. He must face aspects of his mission (especially in 'Part II') alone, but along the way, he needs a lot of help, primarily from Hermione, Ron and the Order of the Phoenix. What makes Harry a hero; his destiny or his choices? What about his friends -- what sacrifices do they make to help Harry? Is Harry "perfect," or does he have character flaws? Compare Harry to other well-known heroes like Frodo or Luke.
2. Pureblood Propaganda: When Harry, Ron and Hermione use Polyjuice to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic, they find the "Magic Is Might" monument (as described in the books), and all sorts of books, pamphlets and laws that discriminate against muggles and muggle-born witches and wizards. While younger tweens may not recognize the Nazi imagery and allusions, older middle-schoolers and up should notice the extremist propaganda. This is an important talking point. A lot of kids don't understand that "blood status" purity is at the root of Voldemort's agenda, and it obviously has a lot of real-world references as well -- not just Nazi Germany.
3. Teenage Wasteland: Take one glimpse at Ron's heart-sick look (pictured) and you'll quickly realize that this movie features an angst-filled burgeoning romance between Ron and Hermione. It's as subtle as Hagrid's footprint that those two are in love, but they choose to (badly) suppress their feelings in order to keep going on the horcrux hunt. It all proves too much for poor Ron, though, who can't help but feel like the second-best sidekick no one would prefer. How does Ron face and overcome his insecurities? How believable was the romantic tension in the movie? Did Ron have a reason to seem suspicious of Harry and Hermione's platonic friendship?
Three to See: Literary Heroes
1. 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone': Young kids who aren't ready for 'Deathly Hallows' can still enjoy the series' first film, which chronicles Harry's introduction to magic and first year at Hogwarts.
2. 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe': Kids will adore seeing the Pevensie siblings discover the magical land of Narnia, meet the wise and selfless Aslan, and help defeat the White Witch.
3. 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring': Director Peter Jackson's adaptation is nearly universally adored by audiences and critics alike, and with good reason. Haven't met a teenager yet who didn't love this beautifully acted trilogy.