I’m not a Harry Potter apologist or expert, so I haven’t seen all of the films (only two) nor have I read even one of the books.

Now, I don’t deserve a badge of honor for that. Nor do I want one. But I just thought I should let you know prior to the anticipated feedback.

Yes, I know that there are witchcraft, wizardry and dark themes in this series of good vs. evil tales. Even growing up in a Christian home, I’m sure I read books and saw films with similar content when I was a child. In fact, I know I did.  

The very first film I ever saw in a movie theater was Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Angela Lansbury was an apprentice witch, and David Tomlinson was the head of a witchcraft training school. If I remember correctly, there was a book of spells and some were recited, while the source of the magic’s power was never discussed or the main focus. I was three years old, but I knew it was a story and wasn’t really interested in pursuing magic spells or the like afterward. I think I just thought it was funny that objects appeared to be moving on their own or flying around the film set. (On an unrelated, yet interesting, side note: I accepted Jesus as my Savior around this same time.)

I also remember seeing the Escape to Witch Mountain films several years later, starting when I was about seven. How cool would it be to travel around in a Winnebago like the two kids and the old man did? But I really just wanted that cute purse like Tia carried. She was the sister of Tony, and they had these “special” powers. Again, I was just interested in the purse.

Why am I sharing all of that? Well, I’m not here to sway you one way or the other when it comes to viewing films that depict the supernatural or the dark world or powers derived via wizardry or witchcraft.

I’m chewing on the effect of taking in stories like this just like many of you probably are, especially when it comes to films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 that are more intense and require more parental discretion than perhaps films from years before.

I do know that at a young age, because of the spiritual training I received at home, I was able to go to the theater and see a film and appreciate it as entertainment and not as education or indoctrination. Thanks to my parents, and the time we spent reading Scripture and discussing biblical principles together, I definitely knew right from wrong and what was good and what was evil. And if I had any questions or confusion, my mom and dad were right there to discuss with me.

Again, that’s just my experience.

As an adult, films that could be kissing cousins to those in the Harry Potter franchise in regards to their similar and weightier themes and subject matter—like those from The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings trilogy—are some of my favorite movies probably due to the fact that the division and definition between what is good and what is evil is so clear. Just as in life, the films' characters go through great trials and tribulations. There are significant choices they have to make. And there are sometimes very grave consequences. But in the end, good always triumphs over evil.

I picture these struggles on-screen and wonder if that’s what kind of struggle is going on within me internally sometimes, in my heart, as I struggle with sin in my thoughts and in my actions. Or if that is what it looks like externally—with the Prince of Darkness and his minions always battling and always trying to trip me up or snare me away from pursuing the Light. I suspect, however, that the evil of this world is much darker and more sinister and way more dangerous than any way I'll ever see it depicted in any film that hits the big screen.

It’s a lot to think about. And there’s no easy segue here. But let’s go ahead and move on to something that requires less chewing.

Pooh …

For those in search of a lighter, more gentle tale this weekend, I believe that Winnie the Pooh wonderfully fits the bill.

I have seen the film and even interviewed Mark Henn, Disney Animation Studios’ Supervising Animator for Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, earlier this week (be sure to read the interview here). He had a lot of interesting things to say about how the gentle storytelling of author A.A. Milne and the original spirit of Disney’s earlier featurettes from the ‘60s and ‘70s (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too) have been preserved in this new Winnie the Pooh feature family film.

I remember seeing some of the original Pooh adaptations on film, and I have to say that I was a little nervous wondering what Walt Disney Pictures would do to beloved Pooh and company in this twenty-first century edition. Thankfully, it is still the Pooh of yore: sweet, playful and tremendously charming.

And the lessons are still there. Subtle though they may be (and not nearly as defined as those say in some of the films mentioned previously), they are great conversation-starters for parents to have with their children. The animals are a family. They help one another. They make sacrifices. They get frustrated with each other. They have unrealistic expectations. Some are misguided. Some take on too much. And some don’t take on enough.

Hey, that sounds like a family I know … or gulp … even my church.

Regardless, be entertained by it and then talk about it: Owl’s pride affects everyone else; Eeyore sweats all of the small stuff; Piglet faces his fears; Pooh sacrifices his desires to help another; and most importantly, why is honey always spelled “huny”?

So in the end … what to do? Potter or Pooh. The choice is yours. 

P.S. This trailer might help ...