Movie re­view: ‘Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

Cecil Whig - - JUMPSTART - By MOIRA MACDON­ALD

Seat­tle Times

J.K. Rowl­ing, it seems, can’t quite let go of the “Harry Pot­ter” uni­verse. “Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the new movie scripted by Rowl­ing and di­rected by David Yates, was re­cently an­nounced as the first of a planned five-movie fran­chise — a sort of pre­quel/spinoff from the world ex­plored in eight “Pot­ter” movies, in­spired by a Hog­warts text­book.

The new film be­gins in 1926 New York, where ma­g­i­zo­ol­o­gist and for­mer Hog­warts stu­dent Newt Sca­man­der (Ed­die Red­mayne) has ar­rived with a suit­case of mag­i­cal beasts in tow — only to find a city torn by a mys­te­ri­ous de­struc­tive force (it’s like “a dark wind with eyes”), and a missing dark wiz­ard.

All this sounds like good mag­i­cal fun, so why does “Fan­tas­tic Beasts” feel ever-soslightly flat? The spe­cial ef­fects are stel­lar, par­tic­u­larly the play­ful en­trances and ex­its through that bat­tered suit­case, and a breath­less scene in which the cam­era seems to fly through the whim­si­cal of­fices of the Mag­i­cal Congress of the United States of Amer­ica. (I saw the film at a preview screen­ing in 2D IMAX, so can’t com­ment on the 3D ef­fects.)

The var­i­ous beasts — which run the gamut from scary to cud­dly to ethe­real to

goofy — are all more than ready for their close-ups. And there’s no deny­ing the mag­i­cal power of John Wil­liams’ iconic “Harry Pot­ter” theme mu­sic, del­i­cately play­ing over the open­ing mo­ments and send­ing a happy shiver down many a back­bone.

No, the prob­lem’s one of charisma. The “Harry Pot­ter” movies, in their early in­stall­ments, stacked the deck by pop­u­lat­ing the screen with adorable young chil­dren (nearly all of whom, amaz­ingly, grew up to be fine ac­tors) and vet­eran thes­pi­ans who dom­i­nated their brief scenes.

Here we watch as Red­mayne, who can be a fine ac­tor (“The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing”) when he’s not hav­ing to be quirk­ily adorable, gets lost in a sea of glassy-eyed vague­ness, wist-

ful smiles and stunned ex­pres­sions, peer­ing up through his bangs like a con­fused Hugh Grant char­ac­ter. (It’s a tricky bal­anc­ing act — how do you play a self-de­scribed an­noy­ing per­son with­out ac­tu­ally be­ing an­noy­ing? — and Red­mayne teeters on the tightrope.) And his Newt can’t seem to find much chem­istry, ro­man­tic or oth­er­wise, with the au­ror-turned-ally Tina Gold­stein (Kather­ine Water­ston).

On a hap­pier note, Dan Fogler is

ef­fort­lessly en­dear­ing as a No-Maj (the Amer­i­can word for mug­gle) would-be baker who gets caught up in help­ing round up Newt’s missing beasts. And there’s un­de­ni­able tal­ent in the sup­port­ing roles — Colin Far­rell, Sa­man­tha Mor­ton, Car­men Ejogo — though as yet no char­ac­ter as dis­tinc­tive as, say, Snape or McGon­a­gall.

So there’s room for im­prove­ment in the “Fan­tas­tic Beasts” uni­verse; per­haps we’ll see it in the next in-

stall­ment or two. Mean­while — even if you, like me, are a bit Pot­tered out and wish Rowl­ing would de­vote her­self in­stead to her mar­velous Cor­moran Strike de­tec­tive-novel se­ries (magic comes in many forms) — it’s still a plea­sure to re­visit the au­thor’s world. In one throw­away mo­ment, a rum­pled Newt points his wand at his bow tie, mut­ters some­thing — and, whoosh, it ties it­self. Just try not to smile. Ver­dict: 2.5 out 4 stars

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF WOODSONGS

Michael Johnathon, a Ken­tucky-based folk singer (among other things), will play at the North Elk Cof­fee House on Saturday, Nov. 19.

COUR­TESY OF JAAP BUI­TENDIJK/WARNER BROS. PIC­TURES/TNS

Ed­die Red­mayne as Newt Sca­man­der in a scene from the movie “Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” di­rected by David Yates.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.