So, I finally did it. After a nearly non stop marathon reading of the last three books in the series (I wanted to read all the books before I saw the movies, and I'm very glad I did this. As always, the books have way more depth.), I've come to the following conclusions...
I happen to quite like the series, but in order to enjoy it as I have I found it necessary to keep my fanboy hat firmly in its place the entire time.
I could poke a thousand holes in the series, but what it all comes down to is this - it's a totally whimsical universe, devoid of the kind of carefully construed logical frameworks that hard core fantasy and scifi fans clamor for.
Let's take a look at magic just as a for instance. In the Potter-verse, spells are formulaic incantations that produce ambiguous results. Compare and contrast this with something like Jim Butcher's Dresden files, where things like the laws of physics come heavily into play.
In the end, the Harry Potter series isn't primarily about magic, although wizards and witches fill the pages of the book, it's about good (Harry) in the never ending struggle against evil, and the terrible price that those who stand up against evil must pay.
In my humble opinion though, it's a heck of a ride. Very entertaining from start to finish, and in the end analysis couldn't all of us do with a bit of an escape into whimsy once in a while anyway?
While at first blush the series appears to be young adult reading, good only for kids too young to be exposed to the evils of the world, and the first books are indeed very light hearted and very much fairy tale like in nature, but as the series progresses it becomes much, MUCH darker. Evil and its outcome is depicted in much sharper contrast, and death looms around every corner.
I would encourage any hard core fantasy fan who read the first book, said "meh" and walked away to give it another try. Look at it from a different perspective, and just try to enjoy the story for what it is. In the end I predict you will not be disappointed.