Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Cold Butterbeer

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe,Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman
(PG-13, 153 min.)

"…let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." Author : Albus Dumbledore

If there were ever a time we needed a blockbuster to take us away from the present reality, it is now. Freezing weather and blizzard conditions are creating havoc in the Midwest, and the economy is still belly up and gasping for breath like a bug that has just been zapped by Raid. We certainly could use a little cinema magic.

And the sixth in the Harry Potter series does not disappoint, though it does not entirely satisfy either. It is a smorgasbord of delights – the majestic gloom of Hogwarts medieval corridors, Harry and his cohorts in the midst of adolescent angst, the dark minions of Voldemort nibbling at the edge of their world - but as in an earlier Potter pieces, sometimes all these tastes only tease us. 

We get just enough of Alan Rickman’s wonderfully ambivalent Professor Severus Snape to want more. Maggie Smith reprises her role as Professor Minerva McGonagail, but she is dreadfully underused here. The actress who can say everything with a mere uplifted eyebrow is relegated to a sort of hall monitor, shushing and coaxing the laggards to their proper classrooms. Robbie Coltrane’s burly Rubeus Haggard, the academy’s resident beast master, makes a cameo appearance as he mourns the passing of Aragog, a giant tarantula the size of a small elephant . Again we long for more of his laconic wisdom and as well as more time with his grotesque menagerie. Perhaps this “leave ‘em wanting more” philosophy has its advantages, however, and may be the reason this ongoing saga continues to thrive through all its installments.

We do get some serious time with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two best friends, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), although it is only Harry who experiences thrills and danger. Rupert Grint, whose real name is almost as wonderfully self-descriptive as the characters in the J.K. Rowling series, plays Ron as a loyal lummox head. His antics resulting from a heady mixture of fame, hero worship, and love potion are sure to delight young audiences. Sadly, Hermione does not get to show much of her pert wit here, becoming more and more just one of the lovelorn teens, although she does bring some sense of dignity to her heartaches.

Harry has matured nicely. Socially he is still the diffident teen, but he wears his special power with a stalwart confidence as well as a sense of its awesome responsibility and burden. There is much of the Arthur/Merlin dynamic in his relationship with Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) as the forces of evil move the aging wizard to ask more of his protégé. Harry is to cultivate a relationship with the returning Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), now Professor of Potions, who it seems was once quite close to evil Lord Voldemort back when he was Tom Riddle, one of Slughorn’s best students.

Part of Rowling’s magic is to infuse a tangible mysticism into otherwise ordinary events. Professor Dumbledore wants to give Harry some background on both Voldemort and Slughorn. He could just have merely recalled these incidents, but Rowling makes the retrieval of the memories an orchestrated event. Each of Dumbledore’s memories is enclosed in crystal and stored in a magnificent polished cabinet in his office. He pours a selected elixir in a pool of water and the inky liquid weaves in the water like a malevolent snake until it dissolves into the past tale.

Likewise, Professor Slughorn puts his wand against his forehead to retrieve one of his memories, and it snakes forward in a blue flame before being captured in a vial.

One climactic scene has Dumbledore step from his academic pedestal to a much more frightening precipice where he holds a sea full of malignant creatures at bay behind a wall of flames, recalling the power and majesty of both Gandalf the Grey and Moses.

The two and a half hours slip past in this magic and menacing world, and even if the ending seems more like a setup for the final installment instead of a satisfying conclusion, you will know you are watching the first genuine film event of the summer.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

The residents of Hogwarts must really burn up the calories concocting their potions and spells. I guess that’s why the long wooden dinning tables are so loaded down with the most delectable assortment of cakes, pastries, puddings, and tarts. Here are some favorites:

Seed Cake Drenched in Cognac

English Summer Pudding

English Fairy Cakes

Custard Tarts

But even with these temptations overflowing, Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave the confines of Hogwart to forget about their troubles as they settle down to their butterbeers at the local Three Broomsticks. Nothing like a little of the foamy stuff to make images of the death eaters vanish for a while. And then there’s the image of Hermione with a froth mustache to cheer you up as well.

If you play your cards right, you might even persuade Professor Slughorn to come to your table with an invitation to a dinner party.

Bottoms up!

Cold Butterbeer

  • 1 cup butterscotch schnapps (or butterscotch syrup for nonalcoholic version)

  • 7 cups cream soda (almost one 2 liter bottle)

Carefully mix just before serving, adding the schnapps to the soda then stirring gently to mix well, or the fizz will dissipate too soon.

Serve in beer mugs and enjoy!

Recipe Source: Review St. Louis