Picks and Pans Review: Still Casting a Spell

updated 07/27/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint | PG |

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Welcome back, kids. Most series run out of juice a few films in (think Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End?) but not the Harry Potter movies. The continuing appeal—Half-Blood is the sixth Potter film, once again based on a J.K. Rowling novel—is watching boy wizard Harry (Radcliffe) and pals Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) grow up in front of us. The more their characters mature and face emotionally complex problems, the more they engage us. This then allows the movies to rely less on magical special effects such as airborne Quidditch games and flying creatures, though plenty of that remains (and it's still plenty grand).

Here the trio deals with hopping hormones and malevolent forces threatening Harry. While clearly transitional, serving to set up the final two films (of the seventh book) yet to come, Half-Blood is a sustaining visit with beloved old (if not in age) friends.

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