Movie Review: ‘FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM’ welcomes fans back to wizarding world

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Preston Barta // Editor

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Rated PG-13, 133 min.
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison SudolDan FoglerColin FarrellEzra MillerSamantha MortonCarmen Ejogo and Jon Voight

There’s no doubt the HARRY POTTER series has instilled magic into the lives of many. There’s a cozy and inviting place it takes you to. It provides a sense of escapism that is rare for movies to offer these days, where one can leave their worries outside the door, live in the moment and cherish what unfolds on screen.

Fortunately enough, the pre-Potter spinoff series, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, continues to embrace the same spirit and capture real-world issues through its entertaining fantasy.

In FANTASTIC BEASTS, the politics of the wizarding world come more into play. Don’t fret, however, as this more-talk-and-less-action tale doesn’t give you a case of the ZZZs like the politically driven Star Wars prequels. There’s something more tangible and rewarding to this new series that’s quite relevant to the times we live in. (Parents, be cautious of taking the little ones.)

We begin with Eddie Redmayne’s eccentric Newt Scamander, a magical creature zoologist who was expelled from Hogwarts, despite an endorsement from headmaster Albus Dumbledore himself. After arriving in 1926 New York for personal business and research for his book, Newt finds himself wrapped up in a tangled plot, involving loose critters from his own briefcase, witch hunts and an immense threat to the magical community.

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston give new adventures to get lost in. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston give new adventures to get lost in. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Like most franchise-starting vehicles, FANTASTIC BEASTS may try to accomplish too much in its two-hour run time. To be fair, on the other hand, it has many new characters to introduce, more mythology to establish and groundwork to lay down for the supposed next four installments.

J.K. Rowling, who wrote the screenplay for the first time in her career, reveals more of the magical world by taking us outside the confines of Hogwarts.

In America, everything is — as Newt puts it — “backward.” Magical discrimination prevails and the specifics about how these stateside communities function make for a revitalizing experience.

Filmmaker David Yates has a real handle on Rowling’s material, as he proved directing the last four POTTER films. His understanding and way in which he gives life to Rowling’s words pull viewers into his beautiful scenery and supply each actor (especially a scene-stealing Dan Fogler as a non-magical citizen caught in the mix) a rich canvas to run about and create magic.

Warts and all, FANTASTIC BEASTS warmly welcomes viewers back to its wonderful wizarding world and sets up much to look forward to in the years to come.

Grade: B

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM opens nationwide on Friday (11/18), with sneak peek showings tonight, starting at 7 p.m.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.