And Now Our Feature Presentation: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016)

This series was formerly titled “Kid Tested – Uncle Approved”. This review was published November 2016.

fantasticbeastsposter_0Guys! Guys! Guys! They made another movie based in the world of Harry Potter! And it’s set in 1920s New York City! And, spoilers, it’s really good!

Takes a breath

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is the latest from Harry Potter creator JK Rowling. Set in 1926, the story follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”, “Jupiter Ascending”) as he travels to the United States from England with a strange and sometimes-moving briefcase. When things go awry with “Non-Maj” (or Muggle as we’re familiar) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler, “Balls of Fury”, “Fan Boys”), former Auror Tina Goldstein (Kate Waterston, “Steve Jobs”, “Michael Clayton”) takes him in to the American-equivalant of the Ministry of Magic, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. When she’s sent away by the MACUSA President, Auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell, “In Bruges”, “Finding Mr. Banks”) searches Newt’s briefcase and finds, of all things, pastries. Meanwhile, across town, Jacob opens what he thinks is his case of pastries to unwittingly release several magical creatures Newt collected and protected in the magical menagerie inside his case.

Honestly, I don’t want to reveal anything else. I wrote another two paragraphs, but deleted them because it gave too much away. Suffice it to say, there’s a ton of really cool creatures, magic, and action throughout the rest of the movie and I don’t want to spoil a second of it.

Rowling, director David Yates, and producer Steve Kloves are back together again and quite literally are making magic. Everything from the writing, to the performances, to the incredible special effects firmly places this at the top of my “Harry Potter” films list. Redmayne and Fogler shoulder most of the film together, pursuing lost creatures and tending to the ones already under Newt’s care. Waterston and Farrell are also wonderful, supporting and thwarting them along the way, respectively. Rowling creates a vibrant, gorgeous world within his menagerie, upping the “Give me more!” factor of her wizarding world by about 3000%. And the fact that it’s set in the ’20s AND in New York – especially since we’ve never seen a story outside of the UK in anything but a short story on Pottermore.com – makes this that much more fun and exciting. Not to mention the handful of ever-so-subtle references to the modern HP tales, all of which I was proud to get and nodding approvingly to each time.

Is it good for kids? It is rated PG-13 and has a few scary moments. I’d say if your kiddos have watched the latter HP films, particularly “Goblet of Fire” and “Deathly Hallows 1&2”, they’ll probably be good to watch FBAWTFT (how’s that for an acronym). And while I didn’t see it in 3D, I bet it’s a pretty fun ride.

I had so much fun watching this movie! I may go back and see it again. Don’t miss it in theaters!

[There’s also a great episode of WTH Are You Watching?! Podcast about this film]

Rating: 4 out of 5 Snack Packs [updated]

Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and filmmaker living in Vermont. He’s been the Wizardingly World of Harry Potter twice and really wants to go back now. Even if the rest of the park is kinda lame. http://www.lincolnlhayes.com

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