While dealing with the whole Voldemort situation, there's another, far less threatening, but still powerful force that has overcome the students at Hogwarts—teen romance. Offering a nice bit of comic relief in these otherwise serious times, it seems everyone (including Harry) has been bitten by the infatuation bug. Not only has Hermoine's thinly veiled crush on Ron become far more pronounced (a scenario that's very enjoyable to watch, especially when she's green with jealousy, given the affection that Lavender [Jessie Cave] lavishes on Ron), but Harry has his eye on Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright), a romance that slowly and sweetly develops in the midst of Harry's focus on far more volatile matters.

Rather than feeling tacked on, a result that could've happened without the proper care, the romantic subplot provides a more human glimpse of these teens with a knack for wizardry. No matter how the world may be crashing down around them, Harry and his friends are still ruled by ungovernable forces like hormones and need each other's friendship and support like never before.

As one of the enduring themes of the Harry Potter series, friendship eventually evolves into self-sacrifice as the story wears on. Without revealing any major plot details, this sacrificial turn is precisely where this beloved children's series, not to mention the characters themselves, make their way into very adult territory. Feeling the weight of his fate as "the chosen one," Harry, along with his pals, are heading toward the ultimate battle between good and evil, one replete with religious symbolism and overtones. And more than ever before, the character of Harry is positioned as the Jesus figure, a symbol of hope in a hopeless world, a timely reminder that certainly won't be lost on any Christians who happen to be watching.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Harry, Hermoine and Ron drink butter beer.
  • Language/Profanity:  A few uses of mild profanity including "hell," "damn" and "piss off."
  • Sex/Nudity:  Romance is definitely on the brain in Hogwarts this time around. There are a few kisses between different teen couples, but nothing more.
  • Violence:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has an even darker tone than any of the other Potter movies to date. And the first scene definitely sets the pace when the Millennium Bridge is destroyed and several civilians are thrown off. A couple of fights break out between Harry and Draco, and their faces are bloodied. There are violent exchanges between the Weasleys and the Death Eaters, and more precarious spells are concocted than ever before, especially when one of Harry's classmates is possessed and nearly dies. The last 20 minutes are the most violent and action-packed of them all when Dumbledore and Harry make their way to the cave. What eventually goes down is different than what actually happens in the books, so I won't spoil it here. Be forewarned, however, this isn't stuff for younger children, despite the PG rating.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.