|A young wizard and his friends become part of the family|
This year, like others, a post-Thanksgiving matinee is as traditional as eating turkey sandwiches.
The Thanksgiving holiday is my favorite.
It is a time when family descends on Cumberland for a glorious weekend of food, family games and animated conversation.
This year was particularly nice because both our daughters and their spouses were here from the West Coast and our other regulars, my wife's two brothers and their families, also all made it over from Vermont, Boston and associated towns.
As in many extended families, a set of rituals has come to attend our Thanksgiving holiday.
One of them is attending the Friday matinee of the latest Harry Potter film, if one happens to be available.
Of course, this year "Harry" was available in the form of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I."
All of the younger generation in our group knew the story – the last of the series.
Neither my wife, Sally, nor I had read the novel. We just thought it would be fun to see Harry, Hermione and Ron again after a lapse of several years.
We had heard comment that an important character bites the dust in this last volume. We had also read that this was an edgier, more adult version of Harry and friends, so we had some apprehensions going in.
From the opening scene – of Muggles under siege – it is clear that this was nothing like the other Harry Potter movies we have seen.
Harry's school days have definitely passed. No sign of Hogwarts' familiar halls are to be seen, though it is not clear Harry has, as yet, found a profession. Mostly, he and his mates seemed to be camping out a lot.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron are young adults – which I found somewhat disconcerting.
While the three school friends were entirely wholesome together at Hogwarts, as young adults there was clearly a new and different dynamic.
Sex was in the air. Ron, always a bit of a bumbler, has taken on an even more "common" look and accent as only the English can manage.
Harry and Hermione, on the other hand, are "upper-upper" in every refined aspect.
Now that school uniforms have been left behind, author J.K. Rowling seems to be setting up Ron as the not quite socially acceptable member of the team.
Sure enough, as Part I progresses, Ron gets edgier and edgier, not at all like the thoroughly ingenuous and lovable youth I remembered from past adventures.
Then there are the villains. Perhaps it is simply that I haven't seen a Harry Potter movie for at least four years, but the dark side seems to have gotten bigger, better organized and more sinister.
The opening scene of a formal dining hall full of evil wizards was right out of "The Godfather."
Voldemort, the darkest of dark lords, presided, attended by his evil female wizard Bellatrix.
The Malfoys, pere et fils, were there, of course, along with a more extensive set of baddies than I had seen before.
Last to the table, unsurprisingly, was Snape, Hogwarts' professor of dark arts and a wizard whose true allegiance has never been clear to me.
That he seemed uncomfortable taking his place may be signaling something that will only be apparent in Part II.
My nieces and nephews tell me that J.K. Rowling has gotten more skilled in character development and plot as the series has gone on.
This subtlety has been lost on me. I think the changes more reflect that Rowling has finally read Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and has borrowed a few themes.
The notion that the entire civilization (of Muggles) is under siege from a highly organized group of evil-doers has clear overtones of Tolkien's classic.
Rowling even comes up with a version of Gollum reincarnated as a more loveable but no less tragic elfin figure.
And then there is the ending to Part I – but I don't want to give too much away.
Don't get me wrong, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I" has plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat.
It is a well-paced bit of wizardly struggles that leaves one eager for Part II – the finale.
This is indeed the best of it – to realize that next summer we are likely to have another Friday matinee slot again filled by Harry, Hermione and Ron.
We are all getting older, but the siren song of the three adventurers continues to transcend generations and, for that brief moment Friday, brings a magic that delights us all.