"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" Delivers FX magic, but fails to grip



This movie will make plenty of money at the Box-Office this coming weekend. Hell, the screening I went to of David Yates' "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was filled with Harry Potter fanatics. You see, J.K. Rowling, in origin-story mode, wrote the film and has signed on to write 5 more! The year is 1926 and the fantastic beasts in the title have escaped from the suitcase of expelled Hogwarts magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). They are wreaking havoc in New York City.

Yates directed that last four Harry Potter movies although, for my money, Alfonso Cuaron's "The Prisoner of Azkaban" was the only film in the franchise to have any kind of cinematic edge or style. The film follows Scamander as he teams up with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a No-Maj (i.e. a non-wizard or Muggle), magic investigator Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston of "Inherent Vice" fame) and her psychic, mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol in a sultry performance). They team up because Newt's beasts are being hunted by Wizard cop Percival Graves (Colin Farrell).

Here's the problem with Rowling's screenplay. It takes too much time introducing all the new characters and doesn't build enough drama in the process. Yes, she has to introduce a new world far removed from the one we're familiar with in the Potter books, but the film doesn't really pick up until more than an hour has elapsed. The saving grace is, of course, the beasts and the FX is tremendously achieved by Yates' team. 
Watch out for Niffler and Pickett, the highlights of the beasts created by Rowling. They invigorate the screen with enough magic to make you forget about a secondhand screenplay. Rowling's imagination can sometimes be contagious, but her ways of expressing emotion on the screen suffers [C+]

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