A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Whatever happened to the delight and, if you'll excuse the term, the magic in the "Harry Potter" series? As the characters grow up, the stories grow, too, leaving the innocence behind and confusing us with plots so labyrinthine that it takes a Ph.D from Hogwarts to figure them out. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" still has much of the enchantment of the earlier films, but Harry no longer has as much joy. His face is lacking the gosh-wow-this-is-really-neat grin. He has internalized the secrets and delights of the world of wizards, and is now instinctively using them to save his life.
An early scene illustrates this change. Harry and his cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors, and in desperation he uses a secret spell to defeat them. But that earns the disapproval of his superiors at Hogwarts, and he is threatened with expulsion, because the spell is not to be used in public around Muggles. What is it, like a secret Masonic grip? When you're about to get your clock stopped by Dementors and you know the spell, what are you expected to do? Fall over passively and get Demented?
There will come a time, I fear, as we approach the end of the series (one book and two films to go), that Harry and his friends will grow up and smell the coffee. They weren't trained as magicians for fun. When they eventually arrive at some apocalyptic crossroads, as I fear they will, can the series continue to live in PG-13 land? The archvillain Voldemort is shaping up as the star of nightmares.
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has reason to fear that playtime is long behind. As a wizard chosen in childhood for his special powers, he has reason to believe Voldemort has returned and will have to be dealt with. The Ministry of Magic, like many a government agency, is hidebound in outdated convictions and considers Harry's warning to be heresy; at Hogwarts, a fierce new professor of the dark arts, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), has been installed to whip Harry into line.