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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Somehow, we've made it through more than a year without another Harry Potter film in theaters, but finally, the wait is over - again. Our film critic, Kenneth Turan, says the latest film will make the fans happy.

KENNETH TURAN: "The Half-Blood Prince" begins with the dread Death Eaters on the march, threatening Hogwarts and all that it stands for. But don't let that fool you. The new Harry Potter film is as comfortable and reliable as an old shoe.

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince")

Mr. MICHAEL GAMBON (Actor): (As Professor Dumbledore) You are, of course, wondering why I brought you here tonight.

Mr. DANIEL RADCLIFFE (Actor): (As Harry Potter) Actually, sir, after all these years, I just sort of go with it.

Mr. GAMBON: (As Professor Dumbledore) Take my arm.

TURAN: The sixth picture in a series, "Half-Blood Prince" understands that it's not chills or suspense audiences are asking for here, but respectful familiarity.

The Potter films are the modern exemplars of establishment moviemaking. We look to them for a level of craft, consistency and most of all, fidelity to the originals - all of which we get.

It's the phenomenal success of the books that's made all this possible. They've created an audience that has invested so much emotion - not to mention time -in the Potter saga that skipping a movie episode is out of the question. That's a kind of brand loyalty that's all but gone out of style.

That investment of time also means that we've been watching the film's youthful principals - Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson - grow up on screen since 2001.

They've become as familiar as family members, and "Half-Blood Prince" trades on that to keep us involved when an emphasis on the agonies of teenage romance slows things down.

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince")

Mr. JIM BROADBENT (Actor): (As Professor Slughorn) What you see before you is a curious little potion. It does cause a powerful infatuation or obsession.

Mr. RUPERT GRINT (Actor): (As Ron Weasley) I'm in love with her.

Mr. RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) All right, fine, you're in love with her. Have you ever even met her?

Mr. GRINT: (As Ron Weasley) No. Can you introduce me?

TURAN: Fortunately, there's more to "Half-Blood Prince" than youthful heartache. Evildoers scheme dark schemes, and Harry has serious tasks of his own to attend to. Hearts across America will beat faster when Michael Gambon's Dumbledore says Harry, as only he can: Once again, I must ask too much of you.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the L.A. Times, and he is not the only one giving a thumbs up to the new Harry Potter film.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Vatican Newspaper is also giving the film its blessing. Last year, the paper called Harry Potter the, quote, "wrong model of a hero." But in a review yesterday, it said the latest film was the best in the series. The reviewer wrote that the film reaches the right balance, with a clear line between good and evil.

You can judge for yourself. Watch clips at npr.org.

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