Movie Review - 'Harry Potter' And The Swine Flu News Blues With a wave of his wand, Harry Potter can separate movie patrons from their money. But he can't magic away the swine flu virus. Critic Bob Mondello files from Argentina, where the blockbuster's opening was postponed a week.
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'Harry Potter' And The Swine Flu News Blues

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'Harry Potter' And The Swine Flu News Blues

Review

Movies

'Harry Potter' And The Swine Flu News Blues

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GUY RAZ, host:

"Harry Potter" is setting records again. The latest big-screen installment of the adventures at Hogwarts collected almost $160 million in North America in its first five days. That's the sixth highest opening in Hollywood history and the biggest ever for a "Harry Potter" film.

The first five "Potter" films made $1.4 billion in North American alone, and more than twice that across the globe.

Our critic, Bob Mondello, happens to be in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he got to see "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" there.

Bob, hola.

BOB MONDELLO: Hola, how are you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: How are you? How's the "Harry Potter" film playing down there?

MONDELLO: Well, in fact, it isn't quite playing yet. It didn't open because of gripe A, which is what they call the swine flu. But the movie theaters are operating at sort of half-capacity. They're asking people to sit in every other row so that they're not too close together. The idea is people are not supposed to congregate.

RAZ: So you saw a critics' screening.

MONDELLO: I did see a critics' screening with other critics. The critics liked it - or they seemed to, anyway.

(Soundbite of laughter)

We were packed very close together. I hope I don't catch the flu.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: I hope not, either. Bob, before we talk about this film, I want to ask you about Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter, of course. Recently, he's been doing some very adult roles on stage: on Broadway; in London, he was in "Equus." There was a nude scene.

MONDELLO: Yeah.

RAZ: He is now almost 20 years old, and he's playing a 16- to 17-year-old, you know, wizard. Is he plausible in this film?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: Well, to the extent that wizards are ever going to be plausible, I suppose he is. I didn't question how old he was. The kids all look older, but these novels were built in such a way that the first one, I think we met Harry Potter when he was about 10 years old, and each new novel takes place in a new year at Hogwarts Academy of Magic.

So they go through the school year, and they emerge a little bit older each time, and the actors have been doing that, too. Now, the movies have mostly kept up with actual, real time. I think they'll finish filming them when they're all about 21. That's still young enough to play 16 or 17 on screen.

I mean, remember, they made Brad Pitt look that young in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and, you know, he's got to be in his 40s now. So it is plausible.

RAZ: Right.

MONDELLO: What's interesting, I think, is that the kids have gotten older and they look more substantial, and so the movie becomes a little more substantial as a result.

RAZ: And from the clips I've seen, Bob, it looks as if this movie really deals with teenage romance in a way that none of the other "Harry Potter" films have.

MONDELLO: Well, that's true, although I have to say I took my 14-year-old nephew a few years ago to one of the "Harry Potter" movies, and Hermione, who is one of Harry's two best friends, came down some steps in a - she was all dressed up in a dress, and she was, you know, a pretty little girl to me, and my nephew looked at her and said, she's a fox.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And I thought, oh. You know, it just didn't occur to me that way. But clearly, the audience, they've been growing up, too, and so they're thinking about other things.

I think there's no question that everybody is interested in romance in this one. Ron Weasley, for instance, at one point, he eats some cookies, which were intended for Harry Potter. There's a girl who's madly in love with Harry and who has sent him cookies laced with a love potion. Magic is everywhere at Hogwarts, and Ron eats the wrong ones and falls madly.

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

Mr. RUPERT GRINT (Actor): (As Ron Weasley) It's no joke. I'm in love with her.

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

Mr. GRINT: (As Ron Weasley) Oh, can you introduce me?

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: So it sounds like hormones running wild in that scene.

MONDELLO: Totally, and actually, throughout the movie. I don't know if you've seen any of these, but there's something called Quidditch that they play in this?

RAZ: Right, the broomstick game.

MONDELLO: Yeah. It's basically soccer but in three dimensions. It takes place, you know, flying around a field on these brooms, and it's mostly played by boys, and in this one, they're all sort of looking for support from the girls who are down in the stands. And I'm sitting there and I'm thinking, you know, Freud might have looked at this and said, well, sometimes a broomstick is only a broomstick, but there's - you look at it differently this time than you did in the previous ones. It inflects everything in the movie, though. I mean, romance is very much present in it.

RAZ: Now, you've liked most of the previous "Harry Potter" films.

MONDELLO: Yeah, that's true.

RAZ: And I understand with this one, Bob, you're actually on the same page as the movie critic for the Vatican's official paper, which formally endorsed this movie this past week.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: Well, probably not for the same reasons. But, you know, this is more an adult picture than the other ones were, and I think the audience is growing up with Harry, and it's getting to a place where the movie has to be good. It can't just be a collection of magic tricks. And this one, I think, is a pretty good movie. It just - it kind of works.

RAZ: NPR's Bob Mondello, still keeping up with the movies from Buenos Aires.

Bob, thanks so much.

MONDELLO: It's always a pleasure.

RAZ: You can see clips from the new "Harry Potter" movie at our Web site, npr.org.

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