So Why Is the New Harry Potter Movie Rated PG, Anyway?

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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Yesterday, Movieline's S.T. VanAirsdale considered the reviews, release date, Oscar prospects, and probable grosses for this week's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and boldly concluded that the film would be the Dark Knight of 2009. We think the analogy works (so far!), and for an additional reason: Do you remember walking out of Dark Knight (PG-13) this week last year and asking yourself how it managed to sneak past the MPAA without a more restrictive rating? Get ready to wonder the same thing about Harry Potter.

Potterphiles plotzed in January when Half-Blood Prince was branded with a PG, even after the last two entries in the series were given PG-13s. But we saw it at a screening last night and were once again impressed with everything Warner Bros. — the same studio behind Dark Knight — was able to get away with. As New York's David Edelstein says in his review this week, "It's not a larky kid-pic. We're firmly in the realm of English horror."

According to the press notes, the film earned its rating with "scary images, some violence, language, and mild sensuality." And all of those things were in there! In Harry Potter 6, we see the following (SPOILER ALERT!):

• A small girl is lifted by unseen forces and slammed, hard, into the ground.

• Someone else is zapped by a wand and falls out of a window.

It's hardly hard-core pornography, or anything likely to scar one of today's Internet-using teenagers, but it certainly makes for a more intense viewing experience than we thought possible for PG. Why does Warner Bros. seem to have such unbelievable luck with the MPAA? We don't know! Also, we're now more baffled than ever over Slumdog Millionaire's R rating.

• One character (who is not old enough to drink in America) procures information from another by getting him drunk. The underage character gets the courage to do so by drinking a potion called "Liquid Luck," which basically makes him act drunk as well.

• A family looks on as its home is burned to the ground by Death Eaters.

• In a scene twice as intense as any Fear Factor challenge we've ever seen, a character bellows in pain as he's force-fed a gross-looking potion. (As we recall, FF was usually rated TV-14.)

• Someone is attacked in a dark cave by an army of terrifying Gollum-like creatures, one of which pulls the character underwater in an attempt to drown him. There's also a giant scary fireball.

It's hardly hard-core pornography, or anything likely to scar one of today's Internet-using teenagers, but it certainly makes for a more intense viewing experience than we thought possible for PG. Why does Warner Bros. seem to have such unbelievable luck with the MPAA? We don't know! Also, we're now more baffled than ever over Slumdog Millionaire's R rating.

Is Harry Potter 6 This Year's Dark Knight ? (Hint: Yes) [Movieline]