The latest installment of the wildy sucessful Harry Potter franchise hits theaters today. Yet Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth movie in the fantasy series based on J.K. Rowling's books, is a bit of a departure from the earlier films. The hocus pocus of Harry and his magical pals takes a back seat to romantic relationships between the now adolescent characters. Still, Potter fans will likely flock to the theaters. Will they walk out happy? Here's what reviewers are saying about the latest film...
"Harry Potter has kept his fans waiting for two years, the longest school break they have had to endure for a new movie adventure about the teen wizard. It's been worth the wait. (It) is the franchise's best so far, blending rich drama and easy camaraderie among the actors with the visual spectacle that until now has been the real star of the series."
-- David Germain, Associated Press
"This "Harry Potter" film feels different. The beginning is a bit rushed. The ending is a slight letdown. And the middle -- while still full of invisibility cloaks, love potions and magic wardrobes -- is more emotional than magical, with each of our three leads struggling with schoolyard romances. What's going on here?... If you're only a casual fan, this 2-and-½-hour film is going to feel padded. The romantic subplots are repetitive. And the ending is as anticlimactic as a big "To Be Continued" title."
-- Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
"Harry is better than ever, a triumph of visual wonder and emotional storytelling... The shadows, and the dangers lurking within, have always drawn me deepest into Potter world. Newcomers shouldn't worry about playing catchup. Getting lost in the hypnotic Half-Blood Prince is what gives the movie its haunting power."
-- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"Half-Blood Prince, with its romantic triangle (square? pentagon?), its Quidditch high jinks, its gorgeous production design and its bang-up final action sequence, might be the most enjoyable Harry Potter movie yet for people who don't particularly care about Harry Potter movies. Whether die-hard fans of the books will love it, though, is another story. Count me as one Potterphile who wasn't enchanted... Previous Harry Potter movies have ranged in quality, each has managed, at least, to convey the basic spirit of the novel from which it was adapted... Alas, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, though not without its excellent moments, doesn't tell the two stories that, at heart, the book tells."
-- Dan Kois, Washington Post
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is being described as an excursion into the dark side for this venerable series, but don't let the chatter fool you. Now in its sixth episode shot over an eight-year span, with two more features still to come, this one-of-a-kind film cycle has become as comfortable and reliable as an old shoe, providing a degree of dependability that's becoming increasingly rare... We don't turn to these films for thrilling or original cinema, we look for a level of craft, consistency and, most of all, fidelity to the originals -- all of which we get."
-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"Are we there yet? Well, not quite. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the latest big-screen iteration of the global phenomenon, is merely the sixth chapter in a now eight-part series that, much like its young hero, played by Daniel Radcliffe, has begun to show signs of stress around the edges, a bit of fatigue, or maybe that’s just my gnawing impatience."
-- Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Watch all 5 trailers for the film: