Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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I’m not sure whether I liked Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It smelled like a cash grab–of course J.K. Rowling, who wrote the thing, doesn’t need it, but I’m sure Warner Brothers appreciates it. The book upon which it is based is a textbook mentioned in one of the Harry Potter books, but the film is its own creation, spun out of the bestiary that is the book. It is mildly diverting, but has little of the charm of the Potter series. To overuse a phrase, it is “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The plot concerns the author of the book, Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne at his most puppyish) who is visiting New York. He is carrying a suitcase full of magical beasts. It is 1926, and there is an evil wizard about who is trying to provoke a war between wizards and “nonmaj’s” (muggles in England). A few of the creatures manage to escape, and Scamander is arrested by Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who will become his ally (and if I recognized the twinkle in her eye, his love interest). There is also a nonmaj baker involved (Dan Fogler) who provides most of the interesting moments in the film.

Having already known there are to be four more films in this series, I kind of felt the weight of the whole project. If it had been a one and done it might have been more psychologically pleasing, but to think that this stretches for another eight hours plus is Peter Jacksonian. We’re not sure who the villain is until the end of the film, and we get a surprise guest as the head bad guy, who says he can not be held. I guess he’s right.

The film is pretty grim for young children. Two people are killed in rather gruesome fashion, and while some of the creatures are cute (the favorite of most would probably the the thing that looks like a platypus and steals shiny objects, or the oversized rhino-thing that wants to mate with Fogler) but there’s not enough of them to make much of an impact. Sitting here two days later after seeing it and I can’t even remember their names.

I’m sure this will tie in more with the Potter series. Album Dumbledore was mentioned as being the only teacher who didn’ want Redmayne kicked out of Hogwarts, but a reason wasn’t given. Maybe we’ll see a young Dumbledore eventually. But keeping all this arcana straight can be headache-inducing.

I imagine Potter enthusiasts will like this film, but I can’t be sure about the rest of us. I’m thumbs sideways on it. I won’t rush out to see the next one, which will also be directed by David Yates. Really, another film where a city is destroyed, and then put back together (see Doctor Strange)?

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About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

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