Fantastic Beasts is fantastic

The best thing about the wizarding world of Harry Potter is that all is not as it seems. 

The secret world of wizards co-exists, but hovers just under/over/behind/through our walls of reality and they are vigilant about protecting their privacy.

Non-magical folk out-number wizards by a large percentage and are threatened by the powers that wizards possess. 

For this reason, all magic must be hidden.  

Seventy years before Harry Potter attends Hogwarts and reads the school text book Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find them, we are introduced to magical zoologist and writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne – Theory of Everything). 

For a socially awkward Brit, navigating 1926 New York City is problematic and Newt finds himself to indeed be a fish out of water.

Newt barely disembarks from his transatlantic ship when disaster strikes; he accidentally swaps his bottomless suitcase full of magical creatures with would-be baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler – The Goldbergs) who is applying for a bank loan carrying an identical suitcase full of pastries. 

Jacob is a No-Maj (American for muggle) factory worker, and unwittingly unleashes half a dozen or so animals onto the streets of New York and the movie becomes a 1926 version of Pokemon Go as Newt must re-capture his creatures before they get into trouble.

Added into the mix is an ex-Auror (magic police) Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston – Steve Jobs) who captures Newt in the hopes that bringing him to the authorities will help her regain her status in the ministry.

She and Newt find a disoriented Jacob who is suffering from a non-fatal creature bite and everyone goes to her apartment, which she shares with her charming mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol – Dig/Transparent). 

Sparks fly as Queenie and Jacob flirt shamelessly.

Newt’s bottomless suitcase is a magical Noah’s Ark that contains elaborate environments necessary to keep his creatures comfortable. 

Newt invites Jacob to descend into the suitcase so he can create a poultice to heal his neck wound and enlist his help for feeding time. 

Jacob is charmed by what he sees and eagerly accepts this new realm, “I ain’t dreamin’,  I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”

Meanwhile, a dark force called an “obscurus” has been wreaking havoc on the city. This ball of violent  energy is usually found in highly magical children who have no positive outlet for their magic. 

A member of the ministry of magic is secretly trying to discover the child who belongs to this particularly strong obscurus in the hopes of harnessing it for his own purposes. 

Eddie Redmayne is perfectly cast as the nerdy, slightly discombobulated Newt and his aversion to eye contact and awkwardly hesitating speech is charming and endearing.

Katherine Waterston is remarkably bland as the earnest do-gooder Tina, but it’s hardly her fault as the character is incredibly one-dimensional. 

She does provide a good romantic match for Newt and the film ends with a very sweet and painfully awkward good bye.

Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler steal every scene they are in as their characters start to fall in love and provide the most charming moments in the film. 

There is surprisingly little back story written for Newt except that he was to be expelled from Hogwarts when Dumbledore intervened and championed him being reinstated to the student body.

It is entirely possible that we discover the origins of Voldemort in this film, but future installations will either confirm or disprove this hypothesis.

Great CGI and 3D effects abound as the story reaches its height and becomes a commentary on racism, intolerance and miscommunication. 

It is worth noting that even among the magic community, there were magical creatures being hunted and persecuted because they were misunderstood.

Despite the rather heavy-handed political undercurrent to the message, this film is entertaining fantasy. 

Die-hard Harry Potter fans will thoroughly enjoy this creative romp into the vintage world of American wizards and witches.  

I give this film 4 out of 5 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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