We got to the theater at 11:43 and a large shivering line of Muggles was already waiting for a chance to see the half dozen “midnight” shows of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1." There were Harrys, and Hermiones, and Ron Weasleys in full regalia. Fans fully decked out in Hogwarts uniforms and round rimmed glasses were everywhere.
My two 12-year-olds, one of their friends and my two nine year olds went with me to the 12:06 showing. 146 minutes later the packed house was squealing about invisibility powers, flying motorcycles, goblins, a blow-away Helena Bonham Carter and how this “DH1” was a Potter 4.0 upgrade to the venerable franchise which seemed to be losing cinematic — if not literary — steam. With the least sleep of all, I was entering into the impenetrable world of Potter. A little kid from the Bed-Stuy neighborhood was sitting right near me. She couldn’t have been more than four years old and was ticking off all the Harry Potter books or movies she knew about as her parents proudly looked on.
I tried to avoid being the annoying dad who asks his son or daughter “So who is Dobby exactly?” or “Is Malfoy the ultimate evil guy or is it the grey dude with the smashed nose?” It is hard to keep track of the enormous cast of characters in the Potter parade and I didn’t want to be interrupting my rapt kids during the movie. Sometimes the Potter films seem to be a state jobs program for every scene-chewing English character actor.
Harry Potter fans Corrinne Fitzgibbons and Nicole Breitbart tell John Hockenberry what they thought of "Deathly Hallows" after the midnight screening.
It was a challenge as soon as we got past the opening credits. I could barely follow what was going on, and having two hours of sleep and facing a morning radio show didn’t really help. But for the whole movie I kept my mouth shut. By the end I vaguely understood that Harry was being hunted by these evil dudes including one with a metal hand. One mystery to dumb daddy was why even though Harry was this all powerful wizard he still needed this oddball gang of cohorts around him to be safe. A rather grumpy young lady with an invisibility blanket, as well as a chunky red headed boy who always looks like he had a half a liter of whiskey for breakfast; there’s the froggy looking Dobby who kept getting applause in our theater every time he was on screen. Were these really the best sidekicks for a young wizard? Whatever the case, it was clear to me that “evil smashed nose dude” is going to be coming back with a vengeance in "DH2."
Everyone had a great time. Daddy made it to work. The kids went off to school. For me seeing the three central characters growing up gave me the most pleasure. The mature, funny, young adult chemistry of Harry, Hermoine, and Ron mirrored exactly the emergence of my increasingly sophisticated 12 years old girls and their nine-year-old siblings. They were once cute little kids who to their dad have grown up to reveal themselves to have special powers. Yet, they still require their rag-tag personalities collectively to make it in the world. An oddball truly magical family: Isn’t that what J.K. Rowling was getting at in the books in the first place?