Directed By: David Yates
Written By: J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros., 2016
PG-13; 133 minutes
4 stars (out of 5)
In this effort to capture the Harry Potter audience, Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, who HP readers know as the author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (roll credits). Newt has come to New York to . . . something. Collect more creatures? Release a few back into their native habitats? Does it matter? What does happen is that the creatures he illegally smuggles into the U.S. get loose and wreak havoc that coincides with other problems in the American magical community. This makes Scamander a convenient scapegoat.
Astute filmgoers will not be surprised by any of the "twists" in this tale; they'll see them coming quite plainly. And not all the FX are up to snuff. However, that aside, this is still a fairly likable film. While it's difficult to warm up to Scamander, with Redmayne playing up the awkward and mostly refusing to make eye contact, the supporting characters are charming. A subplot about a movement called New Salem that wants to rid the country of witches and wizards is pretty dark but also more interesting than what amounts to a game of Pokémon as Scamander attempts to collect his creatures and stuff them back into his suitcase. Gotta catch 'em all!
Despite its flaws, which include faults in logic from time to time and at least one major continuity problem, Fantastic Beasts is on the whole a fun movie. I can't say the IMAX experience added much to it, but then again we also were only watching in 2D, so maybe 3D would have made it cooler. Still and all, I can recommend it as a good time.