Two years ago, al­most to the day, I sur­prised my­self by ab­so­lutely lov­ing Fan­tas­tic Beasts And Where To Find Them, the first film to come from the mag­i­cal pen of J K Rowl­ing since Harry Pot­ter got all grownup, mar­ried Ginny, had kids and be­came some­thing dull at the Min­istry of Magic.

This was a fresh start and I adored al­most ev­ery­thing about what was billed – and still is, as far as I know – the first in a five-film se­ries. I loved the won­der­ful vis­ual ef­fects that al­lowed the de­li­cious re-cre­ation of New York in the Twen­ties, I loved Ed­die Red­mayne’s flop­pily fop­pish per­for­mance as magi-zo­ol­o­gist Newt Sca­man­der, and I loved that Rowl­ing was at last get­ting to show what she could do with a cast of good ac­tors play­ing proper grown-up char­ac­ters.

I even loved the po­ten­tially very silly ‘fan­tas­tic beasts’ – all those nif­flers, bowtruck­les and vast erumpents – and, as I awarded the whole thing a stonk­ing five stars, found my­self ad­mit­ting that I’d been moved to the brink of tears by the touch­ing fi­nal scenes. Baked goods and mag­i­cal mem­ory wipes al­ways get me that way.

Two years on, how­ever, as the sec­ond film ar­rives in cin­e­mas, my re­ac­tion couldn’t be more dis­may­ingly dif­fer­ent. The Crimes Of Grindel­wald is an un­mag­i­cal mud­dle weighed down with too many char­ac­ters mak­ing too many speeches, des­per­ately hop­ing that the still-ex­cel­lent vis­ual ef­fects will get them out of trou­ble. Sadly, for all but the most hard­core Rowl­ing fan, they won’t.

This time around, I was bored, then con­fused, then pretty much gave up. I didn’t know where Newt and the gang were head­ing but, even more im­por­tantly, I didn’t care either. Some­thing has clearly gone badly wrong, with the most likely ex­pla­na­tion be­ing a mis­placed faith on the part of the all-pow­er­ful Rowl­ing, who once again pro­vides her own screen­play, that she can al­ways write her way out of trou­ble, in­tro­duc­ing a new 20 char­ac­ter here, adding a new bit of con­ve­nient magic there. Here, how­ever, it’s trou­ble she writes her­self straight into.

It’s tempt­ing to say that the prob­lems are ap­par­ent right from the start, but that wouldn’t be true. I en­joyed get­ting reac­quainted with the evil wiz­ard Gellert Grindel­wald (Johnny Depp), whose aim is evil do­min­ion over the non-maj or Mug­gle world. Thank heaven, then, that Newt and the gang are around to stop him, no?

The prob­lem is that this time Red­mayne’s per­for­mance as Sca­man­der seems to amount to lit­tle more than a floppy fringe, mum­bled af­fec­ta­tion and a rather con­fused love life. Is it Tina (Kather­ine Water­ston) or his brother’s fi­ancee, Leta Les­trange (Zoe Kravitz), he’s sup­posed to be in love with? Once again, I cer­tainly didn’t care but, more dam­ag­ingly, as far as I could tell, nor did Newt.

As the ac­tion races be­tween late Twen­ties Lon­don and Paris (nei­ther as mem­o­rably recre­ated as New York in the first film), the prob­lem of keep­ing up be­comes more se­ri­ous. Yes, it’s a nice mo­ment of Pot­ter com­plete­ness when we meet a young Al­bus

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