Gotta Catch ‘Em All – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Another taste.  So this is about a writer/wizard from England named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne).  He comes to New York to track an animal for his collection, but before he can do that, he has to recollect all of the beasts that escaped from his magical suitcase.  If you thought the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was done after eight movies, you’re either naïve or foolish.  It is one of the most lucrative properties out there, and one only has to make a trip to Universal Studios on either coast of the United States to see how high the demand is for this world.  While I am familiar with the books from the Harry Potter series, I can’t say that I know much about this; I do realize that it is a textbook within the novels, but I have never actually picked up the actual book the exists in this real world.  For turning a textbook that doesn’t really have any sort of narrative into a movie, I would say that they did a pretty good job.

1You know you have missed spending time in this world.

This is mostly a light affair as you can probably imagine (although it does take a darker turn towards the end).  That story with a strong sense of pathos like you got in the first eight movies is just not comparable, but that’s okay.  You may not necessarily be here for that, you’re here to spend a little bit more time in this world where magic exists.  That is really the strongest part of the movie: all of the magic.  If you can recall from the first two Harry Potter movies, there is magic all over the place in Hogwarts, even in the background.  As the story went on, that slowly started to dissipate, the reason behind it being that more focus needed to be on the epic main story.  It’s back to basics here, and this movie knows why your here, and the effects all look great, especially with all of these animals.  There is one item that once you hear somebody say it, it’s impossible not to see: this movie is totally Pokémon Go.  I mean think about it: you have this guy with this magical case, traveling the city, trying to catch magical animals for his collection.

1But hey, it does keep it whimsical.

I liked this for what it is, but I don’t think it’s perfect.  I surprisingly really liked the work turned in by Dan Fogler as a muggle baker (they’re called no-maj in the States), and he ended up being my favorite character here after I had all but written him off as an actor for years now.  Scamander is no H.P., and that is ultimately the reason why this misses the mark of being a classic.  There are lulls, but it never reaches the point of being boring.  I would have probably given this movie more credit if it had the guts to simply be a one-off, but of course they don’t.  There are rumblings on how this is going to be a five-film series, and I honestly don’t think there’s enough here to merit that.  I would love to be proven wrong, however, so it is time to get cracking, Rowling.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire

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