The Funniest Harry Potter Movie Is Also the Darkest

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince shifts the tone of the franchise, allowing for more comedy and lighter moments amidst the impending darkness.
  • The film highlights Daniel Radcliffe’s range and comedic skills, providing some of the funniest scenes in the series.
  • Harry, Ron, and Hermione embrace a last hurrah at Hogwarts, showcasing their teenage drama and trivial matters before the events of the final films.


If you ask a Harry Potter fan their favorite film in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince would be an unlikely answer. Out of all eight films, it sits squarely at number four on Rotten Tomatoes’ ranking, with an 84% on the Tomatometer and a 78% audience score. It’s the second Harry Potter film directed by David Yates, who would go on to direct both of the series’ final installments, along with the Fantastic Beasts prequel series. Despite its middling reputation, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the last fun Harry Potter film, giving us some final moments of petty teenage drama and romance before the weighty Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films. It’s a welcome reprieve after the humorless Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, leaning into comedy while providing brief but significant glimpses into the gravity of the forthcoming films.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

As Harry Potter begins his sixth year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book marked as “the property of the Half-Blood Prince” and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past.

Release Date
July 7, 2009

Runtime
153 minutes


‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ Is a Tonal Shift For the Franchise

Though they each have their moments, the Harry Potter films have never been known for their comedy; but Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince allows the cast, especially Daniel Radcliffe, to have some fun. If his performance in Order of the Phoenix is any indication, Radcliffe delivers when it comes to the more dramatic and emotional moments in the series, but Half Blood Prince allows him to show off his range and comedic skills. His performance lays the groundwork for some of his comedic post-Harry Potter roles in What If, Swiss Army Man, and Miracle Workers, particularly the scene in which Harry drinks Felix Felicis, a good luck potion. It turns him into an uncharacteristically chipper, friendlier version of himself, contrasted perfectly by Professor Slughorn’s (Jim Broadbent) utter confusion and mild concern.

Radcliffe has some great bits of physical comedy as this goofier version of Harry and throughout the film, especially in his scenes with Ron (Rupert Grint), who typically serves as the comic relief character. One of Half Blood Prince‘s funniest scenes involves the two of them, when Ron accidentally eats a box of chocolates dosed with a love potion that was intended for Harry, leaving Ron comically infatuated with Romilda Vane (Anna Shaffer), who he’s never even met. Though the beloved Weasley twins (James and Oliver Phelps) show up only momentarily, minor characters like Lavender (Jessie Cave), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), and even Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) also get their own funny moments.

Despite Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince being one of the darkest books in the series, the film’s shift in tone allows for more comedy than the previous films. It has all the hallmarks of a teen comedy with love triangles, petty drama, a party scene, and Hogwarts’ own version of “the big game” — the Gryffindor v. Slytherin Quidditch match. There’s plenty of funny, snarky banter between Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Emma Watson), especially with Harry caught in the middle as Ron and Hermione finally realize they have feelings for each other.

Hermione is visibly jealous of Ron and Lavender’s cringe-worthy relationship rife with PDA and pet names, and annoyed by Harry outperforming her in Potions class thanks to his annotated textbook. Ron gets overwhelmed by Lavender’s clinginess, jealous of Cormac McLaggen’s (Freddie Stroma) attraction to Hermione despite her clear repulsion, and earns new popularity as the Keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Harry has a budding crush on Ginny (Bonnie Wright), kisses up to Professor Slughorn per Dumbledore’s orders, and tries to figure out what his long-time nemesis Draco Malloy (Tom Felton) is up to. While there are several unsettling moments, like the Death Eaters attacking the Weasley home and Katie Bell’s (Georgina Leonidas) cursed necklace, Half Blood Prince allows plenty of time for humor in the trio’s final year at Hogwarts.

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Harry, Ron, and Hermione Embrace a Last Hurrah at Hogwarts Before ‘Deathly Hallows’

Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) return at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marks a turning point in the series, and Dumbledore’s death at the end of Half Blood Prince is another watershed moment in the lead up to the events of the final two films. Cedric Diggory’s (Robert Pattinson) death accompanied by Voldemort’s return gave the series real stakes after a string of one-off villains, placing Harry in greater danger than ever before. Most of Half Blood Prince oscillates between light-hearted teenage drama and scattered indications of impending doom, and the third act, culminating with the darkest point of the series in Dumbledore’s death, sets up the events and dismal tone of the final installments. Order of the Phoenix, one of the densest and darkest films, finds Harry understandably angsty and depressed, pushing away those who care about him. And though there is definitely a different feel to Hogwarts in Half Blood Prince, with increased security and rules, Harry and his friends are allowed to revel in petty drama one last time.

The fun is over in Deathly Hallows Part 1, with the trio deciding not to return to Hogwarts for their final year and hunt Horcruxes instead, so despite Half Blood Prince taking place during their sixth year, there’s a sense of it being Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s last hurrah. As sixth year students, they’re allowed more independence and free time, and Harry and Ron in particular enjoy being the big men on campus. It marks the last time we get to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione just being kids preoccupied with trivial matters like jealousy, failed relationships, popularity, and good grades. Sandwiched between two of the more somber Harry Potter films, Half Blood Prince is arguably the funniest in the series, with great chemistry between the trio and stand-out comedic moments from Radcliffe and Grint. French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel also earned an Academy Award nomination for the film, the only film in the series to be nominated for Best Cinematography. Though it may not come close to Alfonso Cuarón‘s Prisoner of Azkaban, its unique ability to maintain a sense of levity despite the impending darkness and danger in the Wizarding World makes it worthy of a rewatch.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

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