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Coming Up To Steam With Harry

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There’s an old story about putting a frog in a pot of water and setting it on the stove. Supposedly, as the temperature slowly rises, the frog’s body will adjusts, until eventually the little creature cooks to death. Unaware the water is becoming increasingly hotter, the frog doesn’t realize it’s time to hop out of the pot.

Several years ago the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, appeared in theaters. Millions of young Potter lovers cued up to see the spectacled magician in “real life,” as opposed to relying on their imaginations while reading JK Rowling’s novels.

The next year, book number two released to the big screen and the water got a little warmer. Concerns were voiced about the themes becoming darker and more intense. Nevertheless, another young crowd, decked out with magic wands and capes, anxiously welcomed Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Then came Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with even darker themes.

Now, those who are wild about Harry, are dusting off their Potter paraphernalia in anticipation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Anyone familiar with the printed works upon which the movies are based, will be well aware of the direction these tales are taking. As the characters mature and grow through their adolescent years, so do the subject matter and scenarios.

That means younger children may have a difficult time with Harry for two reasons. First, the complexity of the story may leave them lost in the mists of darkness. Or, they might find the intensity level of this newest film pushing their nightmare buttons a little too frequently.

From a parent’s perspective, the difficulty of this particular movie is knowing when to say “you’re a little too young for this right now”—especially considering its relatively mild PG rating. It is even more difficult if your family is structured like mine.

I anticipate many families will be trying to help their children understand how this saga is evolving into something more foreboding with each novel.

Parents may also want to assist their youngsters in recognizing how a movie removes the ability to use their own imagination. Generally, a child has a difficult time visualizing things beyond the scope of their experience. Even with detailed descriptions in a book, the visualization in a child’s mind is restrained to the “worst things they can imagine.”

If you have voracious readers or you’ve been sharing the Harry Potter books with your little ones, you may feel they will be well equipped to know what to expect on the screen (although purists will discover the third screenplay doesn’t follow the book as closely as did the past two films). But as in all movies, the director vision replaces your own, even conjuring up images that go well beyond what you saw in your mind’s eye.

Another consideration is the increasing darkness and prominence of occult and magic arts. Brandishing the tagline  “Something wicked this way comes” (drawn from Shakespeare’s Hamlet), these waters creep towards the boiling point for those who are concerned about such depictions.

With promises of more Harry Potter movies in the years ahead, moms and dads will want to watch closely, so they can decide if it’s time for their tadpoles to hop out of the caldron.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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