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WHAT'S NEW AT THE MOVIES?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
This eye-popper gets the new franchise off to a magical enough start.
J.K. Rowling has adapted her own novel for the screen, introducing us to the adults and animals of her Harry Potter spinoff series. She and savvy director David Yates, who helmed four of the Potter films, have expanded the slim text to include more twists to the plot as well as lengthy and often very cool looking special effects. But this is still very much an origins story: we get to meet Newt Scamander, a Hogwarts grad who has just finished a tour of the world. Stopping off in New York, circa 1926, where he must capture one of his escaped creatures, our wizard also meets a potential best friend and even a soul mate.
There’s a lot going on here: too much, in some directions. Some characters are given short shrift and that includes the different beasts Newt loves but we barely get to know. And, while a few of the action scenes seem somewhat generic, there are a few super ones, including a set based effected-enhanced piece that takes place in Central Park at night. Magical indeed.
Not all of the magic comes from a computer. Eddie Redmayne plays Scamander as a shy man with a past and you can’t help but root for him. Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol are charmers, but I think I have a new crush and it’s on Dan Fogler, who steals the show as baker Jacob Kowalski.
Based on this promising intro, and considering how well Yates handled the Potter pictures, his continuing involvement, along with the rest of the team, pretty much forecasts a happy future for these soon-to-really-be-fantastic Beasts.