Movie Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts’ falls short of successful Harry Potter series
There’s a lot to discuss about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Mostly bad things but some good.
But the main thing you should know is that a character actually says, “Wonna youse guys” at one point. Yes, “Wonna youse guys” leaves a character’s mouth and enters our ears where it builds a nest in our brain. Outside of dwarfish gangsters who get their faces accidentally blown off by a stick of dynamite after being tricked into kissing a mini-skirted Bugs Bunny, who has ever said these fake, cartoon words?
The fact that “Wonna youse guys” exists inside a movie made in 2016 speaks to a larger problem surrounding “Fantastic Beasts,” it’s lazy but also strained and weirdly clueless. “Fantastic Beasts” feels like two very different and middling attempts at fan fiction that were mashed together to take on a movie-like shape. It doesn’t feel like it takes place in the world of Harry Potter which is strange considering that Potter’s original author J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay.
Based on a phony 128-page nature guide about whimsical monsters that, quite naturally, is already in the process of being adapted into a 25-hour pentalogy, “Fantastic Beasts” stars Eddie Redmayne which never stops being a problem.
Redmayne’s performance as “magizoololgist” Newt Scamander can be summed up as a flinch with a crooked smile. Without a doubt Redmayne has to be one of the worst actors to ever win an Oscar. He plays every one of his roles in the same exaggerated way Kate McKinnon would if she was making fun of him on an SNL sketch. Nonetheless, he’s here and he’s annoying playing a cringing cipher whose small coterie of mythical creatures escape from his suitcase during a short stopover in a pre-Depression era New York City.
“So, it’s like ‘Jumanji?’” you may ask. “He has to run around New York City persuading all kinds of crazy animals to jump back inside his briefcase, right?”
Not really. That is a part of it, but it’s a surprisingly small part. As in too many movies made nowadays, “Fantastic Beasts” is less interested in telling a story then it is in setting up multiple plot-lines that are briefly established and left to dangle. In this movie, a coherent, focused story is just something we’ll have to wait and see in future installments.
Not that it is worth the wait considering the B-plot yet again involves a magical child and the sinister Lord Voldemort stand-in (a defeated looking Colin Farrell) who wants it dead or converted to the dark side or whatever. Yet, as thin as all of this, “Fantastic Beasts” drags on for two plus hours. At one point, the film grinds to a halt so that Redmayne could slowly take Dan “Budget Jack Black” Fogler on a tour of the petting zoo that exists within his suitcase.
“Fantastic Beasts” has very little to say but takes its time to say it.
To be fair, even though “Fantastic Beasts” is Rowling at her laziest and cash-grabbiest (Muggles are clumsily redubbed as ‘No-Maj’), interesting moments do emerge. Such as the harrowing peek into the wizarding world’s version of the death penalty and Scamander’s creatures, some of which resemble cutesy versions of H.P. Lovecraft’s elder gods. There’s even an interesting performance from the ever creepy Ezra Miller as the abused adopted son of a self-righteous witch hunter. But apart from that, “Fantastic Beasts” exists as an example as to why 128-page books without a narrative shouldn’t be adapted into a five movie franchise. Consider “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” to be “The Hobbit”/”Phantom Menace” of the Harry Potter series.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’
Starring: Eddie Redmayne
Director: David Yates
Weekender Rating: WW
Length: 136 minutes