They both come from fabled literary sources and command immense loyalty in their legions of fans. Both, too, earned cinematic celebrity with a mix of on-screen charm and steely resolve. Unexpectedly they found themselves duking it out at the box office this last weekend.
But while Harry Potter walked off with the bigger loot bag, it was Winnie the Pooh who simply walked tall . . . delivering a flawless movie experience with no need of 3D glasses or overblown special effects. So, what’s the trouble with Harry?
The Hogwarts world has been lively, and literally enchanting at times, with the film adaptations being mostly of high quality. The final book in the series was long enough to require a two-part movie treatment, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 proved a disappointment. After a strong opening, the story lost its way, with much of the “action” consisting of Harry, Ron, and Hermione bickering in a tent.
The hope was that the novel’s many explanations and set-ups would be sorted, thus allowing Hallows: Part 2 to be a rip-snorting conclusion. Sadly, that’s not what made it to the screen.
With many loose ends still to tie up, the script gets bogged down in leaden plot exposition. The ongoing search for the magical horcruxes that have to be destroyed to weaken the perfidious Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is just a flat-footed way to build suspense before the final confrontation. There are a few stunning set pieces, including the siege of Hogwarts by Voldemort’s army, but the movie seems weirdly inconsequential — the dialogue sure talks up the desperate battle between good and evil, but you don’t feel that much is at stake. Daniel Radcliffe has perfected an acting style based on various shades of glumness, while most of those great British thespians — including Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, and Helena Bonham Carter — have little to do. The magic, too, seems a bit tired, or else borrowed from old fantasy epics like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
Some of the film works quite well. A long-delayed kiss gets consummated to good effect, and touches of wry humour help light up an otherwise dark film. There are also some effective plot twists that contain a surprising payload of pathos. And the epilogue, 17 years in the future, is charming. Overall, though, this Potter peters out.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ★★½
PG-13 130 minutes;
Continues at the Capitol, SilverCity, Uni 4 & Westshore
Gentle humour makes honey bear a delight
We go from horcruxes to honey with the delightful Winnie the Pooh, which gets a classic, hand-drawn treatment courtesy of the Disney animation division. Not exactly over-burdened with plot, Winnie’s 70 minutes of running time are concerned with three overlapping stories: Winnie hopes to fill his empty tummy, which is growling without its regular allotment of sweet bee nectar; Eeyore, the perennially depressed donkey, has become more woebegone than usual because his tail is missing; and then there’s the absent Christopher Robin, whose hand-scrawled note with its semi-legible “back soon” has been misinterpreted by the denizens of Hundred Acre Wood as meaning that the young boy has been kidnapped by a terrifying beastie known as The BackSon.
These events unfold with grace and gentle humour, marvelously old-fashioned in an entertainment era of strident razzle-dazzle and pell-mell plotting that overpowers young viewers instead of enchanting them. John Cleese is the narrator for these amiable and sometimes witty proceedings, clearly relishing the opportunity to wallow in an English classic. Not only is this a perfect adaptation of the original books, but the words themselves sometimes tip from the page and into the frame of the movie, where they interact with the characters. It’s a lovely conceit — one that may lead viewers back to the source material. M
Winnie the Pooh ★★★★
G – 69 minutes
Continues at the Capitol & SilverCity
In honour of Winnie, consider seeking out a wee dram of mead, the pre-medieval libation concocted from honey.
Sooke’s Tugwell Creek was the first licensed meadery in B.C. and their various award-winning meads are sold at dozens of private liquor stores throughout Victoria.