Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: +1/2

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson. Fantasy adventure. Screenplay by Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. Directed by David Yates.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Harry returns for his fifth year of study at Hogwarts and finds he must teach fellow students how to defend themselves against the Dark Arts and a teacher bent on replacing Headmaster Dumbledore.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I object when films such as the Harry Potter series require you to study the novels in order to comprehend their movie counterparts. A motion picture should stand on its own. So, if you are a devotee of all things Potter, this is probably a well-told good-vs.-evil parable. For those whose only exposure to Hogwarts comes every couple of years when a new movie sequel is released, the story and dialogue may be a muddled, bleak mess. I am in that latter category and must be content with the wizardry of the Warner Bros. special effects department.

The film feels more like a bridge between installments four and six than a stand-alone sequel. Normally, I would like how the action adventure is subdued in this episode, allowing exposition to take center stage. That usually leads to character development, where people become more human, less cartoonish. But theres not much new in anyones development, here, other than everyone is a bit taller. Though Ron has a few nice moments where he defends both Harry and Hermione, overall, the leads seem cardboard-ish, placed in scenes like props. The portrayals are one dimensional and the mood throughout is gloomy (but then what would you expect from a community dominated by witchery). The confusing names, places and theories that must have been more clearly defined in the books, here are muttered too casually by youngsters who talk at 45-rpm while the rest of us remain at 33-speak. Emma Watson is especially guilty of this quick-blurting. She needs to slow down and enunciate, because, it would be nice to understand anything she says.

This pop culture phenomenon is both fantastical and controversial. The books draw adolescent readership much the way catnip seduces felines. The movies have the same effect, as they invite viewers into this adventurous alternate world. But, the concern persists for those leery of the thematic foundation contained in the series: should we be sending young minds off to see stories infused with witchcraft? Revelation 22:15: Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. In both the Old and New Testaments, we are warned to steer clear of witchcraft.

There are millions of practicing witches worldwide. Members of Wicca teach a philosophy that embraces no absolute truth, and replaces the patriarchal male creator God of the Bible with a belief in both male and female gods. The cult instructs members to embrace spirits and teach how to use spells and curses to control their lives and the lives of others.

Okay, maybe there are no hidden agendas; maybe author J.K. Rowling is just a brilliant storyteller. But I hope that thinking parents would want to examine any phenomenon that has catapulted a once poverty-ridden writer to the status of richest female in the world. Good or bad, Rowling is a Pied Piper. So what exactly is the allure?

Arguably, perceptive children can view such material without succumbing to the snare of the occult. But there are those who view films such as The Craft or TV shows such as Charmed and find themselves drawn to experimenting with the occult. Unhappy at home, unpopular at school, frustrated with the trials of life, many young ones seek solace in something supernatural. And since Christianity and Judaism often seem an established part of their parents organized world, they rebel by delving into the opposite. Then, once ensconced in the dark nature of the occult, they find it governing their lives and ultimately destroying their souls.

In a television special entitled Hollywood Spirituality, which aired several years ago on E! Entertainment, Raven Mounauni, a professing witch and owner of an occult paraphernalia store, credited the 1996 movie The Craft with inspiring young women to explore the world of witches. I get a lot of teenage girls in here. You can always tell when The Craft has been on TV, cause we get a big influx of girls looking for supplies.

Mysticism shouldnt be considered just diverting amusement. Ouija boards, psychic readers, and other forms of misleading supernatural entertainment should not be taken lightly. In Leviticus 19:26 we are instructed, Do not practice divination or sorcery. So, if God is instructing us to avoid occult practices, how can we justify using it to entertain ourselves? Gods Word doesn't apply to just parts of our lives, but to the sum total - including how we entertain ourselves.

I am suggesting several video alternatives that might be of interest to members of your family. Check with your local Christian bookstore first. They may also have some interesting fantasies/fables.

For Little Ones

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. (Public Media Video). A group of children discover a closet that leads to a far-off land called Narnia. The tale is full of Christian analogies and symbolism. This is truly a 4-star adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic tale. It is complete with terrific special effects, animation, as well as live action, musical score, and costumes.

Adventures from the Book Of Virtues. (1996) Based on the best-selling book by William J. Bennett, this superbly animated series is filled with exciting adventures and inspiring messages for little ones. It has been designed to cultivate the best in human qualities: loyalty, courage, honesty, perseverance, self-discipline, respect, etc. Two children, Zach and Annie, face everyday challenges and issues with the help of Plato, a wise and friendly buffalo, Aristotle, a feisty but loyal prairie dog, and Aurora, a warm and caring red-tailed hawk.

For Older Siblings...

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Not since Dorothy landed on the yellow brick road have young and old alike entered such an enchanting world. Its story and dialogue are witty for adults, its magical look spellbinding for kids. PG (Though there is no blood and the filmmakers attempt to avoid excessive brutality, this good vs. evil tale does include violence from bombs exploding, to a wicked witch slapping a youngster, to wolves attacking, to an all-out Braveheart-like battle. There are a few jolting scenes and several scary moments; parents should attend with little ones in order to reassure. The kids learn life lessons, the film is pro-family and the spiritual insights are distinctly biblical).

Fairy Tale: A True Story. (1997) Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Peter O'Toole. Paramount. Fantasy. Two young girls discover a village of fairies at the bottom of a garden. It contains a wonderful message about believing in things unseen. PG (one mild crude expression; concerns a belief in fairies and guardian angels).

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: A couple of minor expletives, but I caught no harsh language.
Profanity: None
Violence: The opening sequence has Harry under attack by two ghost-like demons (called Dementors). They are frightening to look at and bent on sucking the life out of Harry and another kid. Not as chaotic as other installments, but there are several battles between forces of evil and our young heroes. The evil forces are smighted, but so is a supporting character. He is wounded in battle and vaporizes. Another man is brutally attacked, left near death. Blood: Bloody scratches on a wounded man.
Sexual Intercourse: Harry gets kissed. Both are supposed to be fifteen, this being their first kiss, yet they seem very knowledgeable. Its not done awkwardly, but rather with the aptitude and efficiency of one with lots of drive-in theater experience.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog:
Drug Abuse: None
Other: There are several weird and spooky-looking villains. The visual of these characters may be nightmarish to very young viewers.
Running Time: 138 minutes
Intended Audience: Older kids and Up

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