DVD blog review ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1’: The end is near

Give producers of the Harry Potter film franchise this: They’ve followed through. They cast their stars young enough, and worked them often enough, that they’re nearing the saga’s end while retaining its youthful credibility in this showcase not just of wee wizards evolving into young adults, but of young actors maturing as well. (Emma Watson, for one, has greatly improved.)

Now what do we have left? Well, for starters, new on DVD from Warner Bros. April 15 is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1. It’s the seventh film in the series, with the eighth (Hallows Part 2) due in theaters in July.

One of the glorious things about these later films is that the characters have moved beyond the warm confines of Hogwarts Academy (besides, now we’ve got Glee’s Dalton Academy for staid, lavish learning in a massive mansion setting) and into the real world — or a world that’s as real as it gets when you’re making magic.

Let’s just call it the outside world, where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) embark on a harrowing quest to find and destroy powerful magic icons (Horcruxes)  which, when worn, infect the wearer with grim single-mindedness, while also evading the dark forces of Lord Voldemort, who’s taking over organized magicdom.

Can we all sing the praises of The Lord of the Rings here? I mean, the central plot element is so much like Rings that you’d think it was copied by author J.K. Rowling. Surely not.

Our heroes’ epic struggles to defy Voldemort (a creepy, nose-challenged Ralph Fiennes) are vivid and eventful, and it’s good to see the quite wonderful British character actor Bill Nighy get his shot at Potter immortality in two all-too-brief scenes as the minister of magic. (I still heartily recommend Nighy’s Still Crazy to anyone who hasn’t seen it.)

I can’t imagine any Potter fan being disappointed by this movie, whose Blu-ray extras include a sneak peak at the final film, as well as some other additional scenes from Part 1.

Now, the end is near, but what a grand ride it’s been. So saddle up on your broomstick and point your wand toward a DVD, Blu-ray or download of this fine penultimate chapter, which didn’t earn $940 million at the global box office for nothing. Sheer magic? Make that sheer entertainment.

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