Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Even J.K. Rowling ("Harry Potter") isn't above milking a franchise, although she is said to be richer than the Queen of England these days! I suspect creative people just keep creating even when they don't need the cash.

Director David Yates ("Harry Potter") brings us a fantasy/adventure that places us, once again, in Rowling-land, this time in 1926. Meticulously crafted special effects abound and our familiarity with the Potter saga helps only a bit, as we follow a gentleman into New York's secret world of witches and wizards 70 years before the Potter story begins. An evil force is causing no end of destruction and he wants to help. It's sort of a dark window with eyes.

Part of the enormous cast:
  • Eddie Redmayne ("The Danish Girl") is Newt Scamander, the aforementioned gentleman traveling to New York. Take a look at his traveling bag: Mary Poppins hasn't a thing on him! Redmayne has devised a stance and a walk that is unique to Newt. It's sort of hollow-chested and lists to the left.
  • Katherine Waterston ("Inherent Vice") Tina spots Newt as soon as he gets off the boat. It's clear that she knows far more about wizards than most of the New Yorkers who crowd the streets.
  • Dan Fogler ("The Goldbergs") Cannery worker Kowalski wants to open a bakery but doesn't have any collateral. You know how well that goes over with a banker! As he encounters one fantastical situation after another, he knows it has to be true, "I ain't got the brains to make this up!"
  • Alison Sudol ("Other People's Children") Queenie loves to cook so she thinks Kowalski is the perfect man. She makes an amazing apple strudel for him.
  • Colin Farrell ("True Detective") is Percival Graves, a powerful wizard who crosses wands with Newt. Fearsome opponents, indeed!
  • Carmen Ejogo ("Selma") Seraphina is in charge. The No-Maj (American for Muggles) must have their memories of recent events erased. Period!
  • Ezra Miller ("Suicide Squad") Credence is part of the cadre of operatives directed by Graves.
  • Samantha Morton ("Max & Ruby") Mary Lou "adopts" children for their own good. Yikes! Her ministry opposes witches and warlocks.
  • Johnny Depp ("Black Mass") Ha! You'll never recognize his Grindenwald so I'll tell you right now. Yeah, that's a spoiler, but you will STILL be surprised.
As you might expect with a Rowling story, our hold on reality is pretty flimsy but Redmayne manages to find humor in being a stranger in a strange land... Actually, our hold on a plot is equally flimsy. This is mainly an excuse to string together one mind-boggling special effect after another. I sort of liked the first critter that escaped from Newt's grip. It is a sort of duck-billed platypus and is elusive as heck; it LOVES shiny jewelry and valuable coins. Bowtruckle is a green walking-stick bug with attachment issues and the amorous Eruptamus is no shrinking violet!

This is PG-13, so there is no sex (to the Eruptamus's frustration!), a few paltry gunshots, destructive mayhem in the streets but no profanity. The beasts are creative and of course the requisite barroom scene is full of oddball creatures.
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Here is a peek:
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