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Fantastic Beasts

and where to find them

(Warner Bros)

 

When wizard Newt Scamander visits New York, he's not prepared for the adventures that await.

 

Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.

Genre: Fantasy

Viewer Appeal:  All Ages

 

J.K. Rowling has her work cut out for her as she attempts to lure Harry Potter fans into her newest magical movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The problem may be that Harry and his familiar friends aren't in this newest tale. Instead, she takes us back to 1926, far before Harry was born, and brings to life Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a character true Harry Potter fans will recognize as the author of one of Harry's schoolbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

 

Newt, a magical zoologist, scientist, and awkward sort of fellow, enters America by way of New York. Unfortunately for Newt, almost as soon as he arrives his illegal magical creatures begin escaping his not-so-secure suitcase. Unfortunately for Newt, because the American wizarding community is on a sort of lock-down, with No-Maj's (American for "muggle") on the hunt for any kind of witch, wizard, or magical creature. And, in unfortunate timing, there seems to be some sort of non-human creature terrorizing New York.

As Newt gains his bearings, he runs into MaryLou Barebone, (Samantha Morton) as she preaches anti-magic propaganda, along with her children Credence (Ezra Miller), Modesty (Faith Wood-Blagrove), and Chastity (Jenn Murray). While Newt is listening to MaryLou, his first creature escapes, leading Newt on an unexpected trip through the bank. As he tries to re-capture the escapee, Newt accidentally bumps into Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a would-be baker, as he attempts to obtain a loan. And once Jacob has seen magic, he can't be let loose until his memory has been obliviated. Before Newt has a chance though, Jacob escapes with Newt's suitcase, and Newt is caught by Tina, an American witch. After catching up with Jacob, Tina ends up taking Newt and Jacob to the apartment she shares with her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), who can read minds.

The subplots to this movie are multi-layered and numerous. Newt takes Jacob on an adventure through his suitcase, while auror and Director of Magical Security, Graves (Colin Farrell) manipulates Credence into spying for him, and Senator Shaw is killed by an Obscurial. All leading Newt using all of his experiences and background to save New York and catch the Obscurial.

So, is Fantastic Beasts a stand-alone movie by J.K. Rowling? Not really. Numerous characters, famous and obscure, are mentioned from the Harry Potter novels, which makes it a bit confusing if you're not clear about them beforehand. Additionally, if you ARE a Harry Potter fan, terminology you might be familiar with has been changed up. Muggles are No-mag's (for "No Magic") and the Ministry of Magic is the "Magical Congress of the United States of America" (also knows as MACUSA).

Eddie Redmayne was quite good as New Scamander, as were all the actors portraying their characters. Personally though, I found Redmayne to be distracting, as I kept seeing him as Steven Hawking and The Danish Girl. For me, Ezra Miller, Dan Folger, and Alison Sudol were captivating and thoroughly enjoyable to watch as they embodied the characters they portrayed.

Should you see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? If you're a die-hard HP fan, nothing could keep you away, but you might find yourself disappointed. If you're a casual acquaintance of Harry, Read up on Grindelwald. It will make your movie experience much more enjoyable.

 

Let's Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• Do you think all No-mag's should be kept in the dark about the wizarding community? Explain your answer.

 

• Do you think Newt was able to apparate from England to America? If so, why did he take a ship? If not, does that mean magic is limited?

 

• If you had a magical creature, what would it be able to do?

 

--JW

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