Hello friends and welcome to Funkhouser Book/Script Reviews, the premiere book/script review stop in all the land. Today’s topic: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the final (according to JK Rowling) entry into the Harry Potter story. This will be a mostly spoiler-free review; however, there are some non-specific references to basic plot devices. If you haven’t read the book/script and don’t want to know anything at all before reading, you should stop now. If you’re on the fence about reading it and are looking for guidance, or if you’ve read it already, then let’s go.
I picked up The Cursed Child on its release day, anxious to discover what new adventures awaited in the wizarding world. It was a quick read and roughly six hours after I started it I was ready to listen to some Huey Lewis and the News. I liked The Cursed Child, but I think a more appropriate title would have been Harry Potter and the Flux Capacitor due to the heavy dose of Emmett Brown’s Back to the Future philosophy. The story centers around Harry’s youngest son, Albus, and his difficulty growing up under the weight of his father’s past. As a result of this burden, Albus decides to carve out his own legacy and the resulting adventure leads readers on a nostalgia-laden story which never quite finds its own footing.
By the time you reach the end of the first page, it’s clear The Cursed Child is not a book. Sure when you see it at the store it looks like a book. You thumb through and see it’s 308 pages so it might seem like a book. Then you start reading and it is not a book. The Cursed Child is the script for the play of the same name, and as such has drawn the ire of some readers. There are definite drawbacks to the script format compared to a book such as a lack of character development and story depth, especially when compared to the Harry Potter book series. I don’t say this to disparage The Cursed Child, but the distinction should not be taken for granted. The Cursed Child is not a Harry Potter book. That’s okay though, rather than expect a new Harry Potter book, The Cursed Child is simply the epilogue fans deserved the first time around.
The relationship between Harry and Albus is the foundation of the story. In a story filled with references to the books, the evolution of their relationship serves as an anchor to the present. Seeing Harry, who grew up fatherless, struggle with fatherhood along with Albus’ struggle to understand his dad provides a dynamic not familiar to the books. Sure, there were moments when characters like Sirius Black or Dumbledore tried to be a father figure for Harry; but those struggles were usually shown from Harry’s perspective. The Cursed Child presents a new and welcome side of Harry while introducing Albus for a new story. Harry and Albus provide the most original take in the script, but the real star of the show is past.
The best thing about The Cursed Child is, naturally, the return to the wizarding world. As I said before, the script is quite a walk down memory lane. Thanks to the Delorean-esque time turner,
Marty McFly Albus and his best pal, Scorpius Malfoy, are able to revisit previous Potter experiences in attempt to correct some perceived wrongs in the past. Surrounding the adventure are lot of familiar faces, such as Albus’ parents Harry and Ginny. Hermione and Ron also make appearances, as do a handful of other characters from the books. I won’t spoil who shows up and what their impact is, but for the most part the appearances work well with the exception of a couple which seemed a little out of character.
The downside to having so many characters show up in such a short story is that some of them will get the short end of the stick. Some characters, such as Ginny, have contributions to the story so minimal that their inclusion seems like little more than lip service to fans. This is certainly not a surprise and I didn’t really mind it, but it does cheapen the appearance of some characters. A common criticism of the script is that it resembles fan-fiction where many of the characters are involved. Again, I won’t share spoilers but there are many “this could have happened” moments in the script which comes off as pandering to fans.
There are also times when writers John Tiffany and Jack Thorne seem adamant in pointing out that our heroes from the books are no longer teenagers. In one scene, Harry discusses being “off sugar”and it made me feel a little old myself. I admire their commitment to realism, but in a story full of magic I can’t imagine the wizard who defeated the most powerful dark wizard of all time being too horribly concerned with eating a piece of toffee. That type of character development might have a place in a book where it might be given more context, but in a script it just comes off as forced.
Those who pick up
The Flux Capacitor The Cursed Child expecting another Harry Potter book will be disappointed. The lack of depth and development don’t lend itself to the quality level of the books, but the object for the writers was to write a stage play. If someone picked up the scripts for the Harry Potter movies they would experience the same disappointment. To those who are upset about plot holes concerning the rules of time travel, the story has the ultimate plot armor: magic, which means anything is possible. As I mentioned earlier, The Cursed Child serves much more as an extended epilogue than its own stand-alone story, and that’s okay. Between the Pottermore site and now this, there is ample information about Harry’s life post-Battle of Hogwarts. There are no crazy revelations or mysteries to be unraveled, just readers seeing how Harry’s life impacts Albus, and how that impact could potentially affect the entire history of wizarding world. That’s the power of love.