Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Lessons learned.

"What makes Harry and buds more interesting than ever is that they care more deeply about each other and take more time to figure out their strategies, the way intelligent adults do."

So I said about the third Harry Potter installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I can't say that for the fifth, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which uses much elementary wizardry and too little caring, except for Harry's (Daniel Radcliffe) ambivalent kiss with Cho Chang (Katie Leung), in honor of diversity, I suppose.

The tone is downbeat as Harry tries to prepare the skeptics for the return of his arch enemy, Lord Voldemort. It may be that Harry is becoming more isolated because of his fame (newspapers pronounce him "Harry Plotter"), distancing himself from his friends partly to shield them from collateral harm and partly from adolescent moodiness.

There is little fun of the kind the Quidditch match, missing here, always provided. Harry is even framed opposite from Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) as he is consumed by his thoughts about the return of his enemy. Happily some light comes in the form of a makeshift classroom, where Harry experiences the gift of inspiring teaching, his own teaching, that is.

Harry's teaching antithesis is new villainess Dolores Umbridge (Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton), whose style is to dictate theory without experience, to demand learning without reason, and to eschew practical magic in general. Her pink outfit is almost a joy in such a grey world and a nicely ironic juxtaposition to her distinctly unfeminine behavior. The splash of color is memorable and dramatically spot on.

Some universals apply such as the value of going it on your own and learning well. The lesson about the value of experience joined with theory is a high point in an otherwise dark, action-filled, second-rate Potter production.