“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” review by Susan Granger

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It’s kind of like “Star Wars: Episode I,” perhaps the weakest chain in the link but necessary in order to understand what’s going to happen in the next two installments.

After a lonely summer with the despicable Dursleys, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is denounced as a liar by the Ministry of Magic and returns in disgrace to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the authority of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has been undermined by the unwelcome arrival of dreadful Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).

Now 15 – with no family except godfather, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) – Harry’s even more determined to fight the evil forces of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), training those few who still trust him in the magic they’ll need to defend themselves as “Dumbledore’s Army.”

Utilizing J.K. Rowling’s dark yet highly detailed novel, screenwriter Michael Goldenberg and director David Yates concentrate on Harry’s full-blown, angst-ridden coming-of-age confusion, reducing colorful characters like Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), even Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) to cameos. There’s not even a Quiddich match!

What’s still fascinating is watching the wide-eyed innocents of “Sorcerer’s Stone” grow up. Except for Michael Apted’s British series, “Seven Up,” documenting the lives of 14 British children every seven years, this has never been done before.

Yet with mumbled dialogue, fewer fantastical creatures, a perplexing prophecy and less impressive visual effects, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is a transitional, sinister 7. At two hours, 18 minutes, it’s one of the shortest Harry Potter movies – yet it feels like the longest.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.