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Movie Night – ‘Fantastic Beasts’ funnier than Potter series

By Bradley Griffith

When it comes to “Fantastic Beasts” it’s pretty simple, if you are a Harry Potter fan you will love “Fantastic Beasts.”  If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you may still like the movie if you can open your mind to enjoy something a little different.  You will be amazed at how much you will enjoy this movie.

The year is 1926 and the location is New York City.  It’s seventy years before Harry Potter will first attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) steps off the boat from abroad with a single small suitcase as his only luggage.  After a few questions from the customs officer Newt enters the city for the first time.  Newt’s suitcase is unlike any other suitcase in the world.  It’s a magical case that carries a multitude of magical beasts in one small compartment.

As Newt makes his way through the city one small beast escapes the suitcase.  A small mole-like creature that loves shiny things is on the loose.  He makes his way immediately to a nearby bank and heads for the vault.  In his haste to capture the creature Newt runs into Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a Muggle, or as they say in America, a No-Maj.  Jacob is not only not a wizard, he and the rest of America are unaware of the existence of magic and wizardry, and that’s exactly how the wizarding community wants to keep it.

Newt recaptures the greedy beast, but in his haste to escape the bank he accidentally takes Jacob’s suitcase that is almost identical to his.  Before Newt realizes his mistake, he is identified as a wizard by Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston).  Tina arrests Newt for being in the America without registering as a wizard.  It’s not until Tina hauls him in that he realizes that he has the wrong suitcase.

By the time Newt and Tina find Jacob several magical creatures have escaped the case.  The three enlist the help of Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), to locate all the beasts before they are seen.  At the same time a dark and threatening presence is wreaking havoc in the city.  It’s a malevolent force that must be stopped before the wizarding community is exposed to the world.

“Fantastic Beasts” takes you back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  Except, it’s a different world than that known by Harry.  The setting of 1926 in New York City is completely foreign to the Harry Potter movies, and that’s exactly what makes this movie different enough to be enjoyed on its own.  New York City in the 1920s was a bustling place with many new innovations and technology highly advanced for the time.  It’s the perfect place to be a wizard without anyone realizing it.

Another aspect of the movie that sets it apart from its predecessors is that it’s much funnier than any of the Harry Potter movies.  It’s more tongue-in-cheek and provides a lighter atmosphere to the majority of the movie, though it also has its darker moments.  “Fantastic Beasts” is also more for adults than the first few movies in the Harry Potter series.  The main characters aren’t children, but adults and there are a few darker scenes that may scare young children.

While I have never been a fan of Eddie Redmayne, “Fantastic Beasts” was perfectly cast.  The four main actors of Redmayne, Fogler, Waterston, and Sudol have great chemistry together.  Even though they are a band of misfits, it’s their teamwork both as characters and as actors that drive the story forward and make the movie so enjoyable. Dan Fogler, in particular, was exceptional.  His bumbling and spot-on comedic timing as Jacob Kowalski generates most of the laughter.

Is it as good as the Harry Potter movies? Probably not.  But “Fantastic Beasts” is an entertaining and fun two hours and thirteen minutes with incredible special effects where adults can feel like a kid again.  In short, it is fantastic.

Grade: A

Rated PG-13 for some fantasy and action violence.