If you want a family entertainment, of the two, HARRY POTTER and BRUNO, which do you think is unsafe at any speed?

Harry"HARRY and the Half-Blood Prince" features magical wonders and extensive character development and story machinations. Characters introduced in Chamber of Secrets, Sorcerer's Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix are revisited, and they are more delicious for having a beloved history of being arch, sneering, weird, freaky, evil or quirky. There's nary a wayward word in the 21/2 hours, the scenery is gobsmackingly shuddery and flabbergasting (Norway, Scotland, British Isles, elsewhere), things come to life and things expire picturesquely, and there's hormones in the air of Hogwarts, whether you are Muggle or wizard. Quidditch again takes to the air, flaxen-haired bad guys smolder and wreak spells, potions are mixed and loosed, lissome lovelies fall in love with geek-sidekicks and baby sisters grown to elegant teens. Beards are thick and intertwined with lockets and laces. Clothing is dark but subtly threatening and pointed when you might least expect it. We saw it in 2D, but a 3D mastered version tantalizingly beckons for those of us who were bewitched by set and scenery, sidelongs and sidelocks — and need a second viewing to get the entirety of the saga. Stuff is always happening at the margins you don't want to miss. We'll see the 3D version before the week is out. And then there's one more to go.

BrunoWhereas BRUNO. Second go-round from Sacha Baron Cohen features beyond-the-usual vulgarity, excess, guttering of the public dialogue-far beyond what is necessary to make us laugh. Although we can't help laughing at his send-ups of celebrity adoptions of black children from exotic locales, and his SEX IN THE CITY/male version extravaganzas of attire, his eliciting a rude (but a propos) expletive from a surprised Harrison Ford, and disbelief from Paula Abdul (forced to sit on live Mexican-laborer 'furniture' in the absence of real household effects), he mocks not only gay fetishistic habits, but ordinary Americans who are — as in BORAT — taken unawares to a cruel and ludicrous degree. As an Austrian non-hetero fashionista (speaking Yiddish; in Borat the Kazakh was really Hebrew, if you listened at all carefully) he is an equal opportunity offender. There are, to be fair, many honking yuks to be had, but they are interspersed between so much upsetting and overdone queer stuff that one grows exhausted lifting one's jaw from one's chest, where it finally comes to rest-the movie overworks the penile sight-gags (pun intended), the nude effects, the gay-fey jaded ephemera, and sets the bar ever lower for the poor American (and global) movie-going public. Coarsening on this scale frightens the horses, and makes one wonder why Sacha Baron Cohen — a clear genius by most lights — aim so very low for his effects, when he could get us with half the work and a fifth the grossology.

marion d s dreyfus 20(c)09


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