My, how they've grown! Not just the lead actors in the "Harry Potter" movies, but the films themselves.

My, how they've grown! Not just the lead actors in the "Harry Potter" movies, but the films themselves.

As I muggle my way through the movies - it's blasphemy, I know, but I've only read the first few books - I'm amazed at the emotional depth in this saga. Now the final book is unraveling in the first of two parts, and I'm a little emotional to see them go.

So where were we? Dumbledore is dead, Voldemort is rapidly regaining power, and Harry, Ron and Hermione face hopeless odds. You know the drill.

Down its stretch run, the Potter series found its director in David Yates, who helms the final four films. He's working with a core of young actors (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) whose talents have grown steadily in the decade they've been doing this.

The difficulty here is that I'm really reviewing half of a movie. "Hallows: Part 1" is a lot of buildup without much payoff. And, experienced by itself, it can be at times gripping and at times meandering.

The big question for Potter fans was exactly where this movie would end. According to a friend at the screening, it ends "right when everything is about to get really good." The line for "Part 2" - opening in July 2011 - might as well start forming at the exit.