Deborah Ross

Danger, baddie, magic...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Don’t care about Harry Potter. Don’t care about the children who love him. Don’t care about the middle-aged weirdos who read the books on the Tube. (Some muggles are too dumb for shame, even.) Don’t care about J.K. Rowling, although I will ask this about her: why does she always look so miserable? If you were worth £600 million would you look so miserable? Maybe she just pretends to look miserable, so we don’t feel more envious than we already are. Perhaps once she closes her front door behind her she dances down the hall exclaiming, ‘I’m so rich it’s unbelievable; I’m so rich it’s unbelievable’, before snacking on ground-diamond toasties and bathing in champagne.

Good luck to her and all that, but I just don’t get it. I half-read the first Potter book with my son but he got bored the moment Harry landed at Hogwarts on the grounds that: ‘if it’s magic and anything can happen, it doesn’t really count.’ I know what he means. I so know what he means. Magic is cheating. Magic is boring. Magic can even be Paul Daniels. On the other hand, I guess, what do we know? We’re not worth £600 million, don’t skip down the hall and don’t bathe in champagne, except on Tuesdays, and I’m quite strict about that.

So, anyway, this is what? The film-makers insist it’s the fifth film, and not the 678th, as I’d suspected. I even said, ‘Come on, it’s the 678th, who are you trying to kid?’, but they wouldn’t be having it. It’s two and a half hours long and, boy, you are so going to know it unless you: 1) are mad for this kind of thing; 2) have some previous understanding of what the hell is going on and 3) aren’t the sort of person who asks yourself questions like: what’s the point of being the foremost boy wizard if you can’t at least magic yourself 20–20 vision? Come on. Even muggles, dumb as they are, can do it with laser surgery now.

The film starts coherently enough, and is actually fun for the first four minutes. It’s the summer holidays so Harry is stuck in Privet Drive with nasty Uncle Vernon and nasty Aunt Petunia and nasty cousin Douglas, and I do, at least, love Vernon and Petunia and Douglas because, cruel as they are, they are also gloriously human and don’t give a fig for the dark arts. But when Harry and Douglas are attacked by ‘dementors’ — don’t ask; don’t know; don’t care — in the local park and Harry fends them off with a ‘Patronus Charm’ he is charged with using magic in front of a muggle and expelled from Hogwarts. Next...oh, I can’t be bothered. Let’s just say that thenceforth it’s all bish, bash, bosh and Voldermort this and Dumbledore that and Hagrid what have you and dark arts and even darker arts and Helena Bonham Carter providing a mad-haired turn obviously based on Mrs Rochester. Traditional drama is usually a three-act deal: set-up, conflict, resolution. But this is the three-act deal every two minutes. Danger, baddie, magic. Danger, baddie, magic. Danger, baddie, magic. It’s as tired as it is tiresome.

I hoped, at least, by this, the 678th film (come on!), Harry’s sap would, at least, be rising, that we might be in for a little HP Sauce. True enough, there is a kiss. He kisses little Cho Chang and it’s quite full-on. Later, Ron and Hermoine interrogate him. ‘What was it like?’ they ask. ‘Wet,’ reveals Harry. What this film needs is less enchantment and more scenes where this trio are simply being teenagers. For all the special effects, the best bits are when they are doing just that, but there aren’t enough of them. I also think this film would have been much improved if Harry had simply taken Hermione behind a bush and shagged the living daylights out of her. She’s up for it, I can tell.

Actually, the acting is quite appalling. While the usual suspects (Gambon; Fiennes; Maggie Smith; Julie Walters, etc.) lazily camp it up, the kids are just awful. I know, I know, Daniel Radcliffe recently proved himself in every way in a West End production of Equus, but here he just either pants or looks on in wide-eyed astonishment. Aside from anything else, you’d think there would be little left to astonish Harry by now, just as there is little left to astonish an audience.

OK, so it’s not my kind of thing, and I was bored. Very bored. Bored stiff. But, again, what do I know? As it is, we don’t even bathe in champagne every Tuesday. We only do it on the third one of every month.