Lord Voldemort has returned, but the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep the wizarding world from knowing the truth including appointing Ministry officials Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. When Umbridge refuses to teach practical defensive magic, Ron and Hermione convince Harry to secretly train a select group of students for the wizarding war that lies ahead.

1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2016 - 9:41 AM
2

Novelty ringtones, myspace, Internet fridges, fitness boot camps, R&B blingsters from R. Kelly to P. Diddy – there are a lot popular modern phenomena I just don’t get. High on the list, below Dan Brown’s books but above Josh Hartnett’s continuing employment, is master Harry Potter, boy wizard and billion-dollar franchise.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read the series; I found the first movie mechanical; the follow-up so dull I hit stop about 30 minutes in. Since then I’ve stayed a confirmed non-believer. The lovely Lisa Hensley is, too – but I’m also coming to suspect she’s in league with dark forces.

How else to explain the fact that I found myself watching Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix at 9.30 last Sunday morning?

This one has Harry called a liar when he says that Dark Lord Voldemort is alive and kicking and planning uber-evil. He has to stand trial for using out-of-school spells. He makes an enemy of Hogwart’s new disciplinarian, who wants to do away with practical magic. Much ballyhooed, this fifth flick also has angsty teen Harry hankering for his first pash. I tried, I really tried, to let it bewitch me.

The fx are good and the production design is as detailed and impressive as I remember. Imelda Staunton’s new villain a lot of fun, as is Alan Rickman’s recurring sourpuss. The rest of the grown-up cast – a who’s who of great British actors – are underused.

Of the kids, newcomer Evanna Lynch – the 15-year-old Potter fan cast from thousands of hopefuls – injects spark and feeling into her oddball Luna. Her performance just shows up how wet Harry, Ron and Hermoine are.

The film spends ages setting up dark secrets and a mind-control scenario. Both barely pay off before we’re reminded that, oh, yes, the real showdown’s yet to come. What’s offered – an fx-heavy all wizards stacks on – had me yawning, rather than yearning for more. To be fair, the J.K. Rowling faithful in the audience seemed happy. Keep in mind that some were wearing capes and pointy hats.

Chalk me up as a grumpy old muggle but this just never rose from the ashes of my expectations. Two stars.