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J.K. Rowling's ingenuity, now free of old Hogwarts, gets a real workout in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Credited as scriptwriter and co-producer, Rowling has a fresh backdrop, the New York of 1926. She and director Peter Yates, a longtime vet of the Harry Potter film series, charm us with the critters, but really hook us with the characters. This warmly cast comedy has a switched-suitcase plot, mixing a British amateur crypto-zoologist, a busted-down former police officer for the world of magic, the portly baker Kowalski (Dan Fogler, excellent in a dapper stout-man part, neither slobby nor mawkish), and a ravishing if ditzy mind-reader.

The battered leather suitcase belongs to Hogwarts dropout Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and is far bigger on the inside, which makes it ideal for stuffing full of mythological beasts. On a visit to the city, one of Newt's menagerie escapes—an endearingly mischievous flying echidna that loves to stuff treasure into its pouch. When trying to retrieve the thieving monotreme from a bank's vault, Newt's case gets accidentally picked up by the baker Kowalski.

Aggravated mystical copper Porpentina Goldstein (the pretty, sad-faced Katherine Waterston) hauls Newt into custody, delaying the rescue. Even with the New York wizards trying their best to keep secrecy, some civilians suspect witchcraft. Samantha Morton is an Aimee Semple McPherson-type street preacher who carries a banner emblazoned with a pair of large hands snapping a magic wand. Enter Miss Goldstein's glamorous telepathic sister Queenie (Alison "Fine Frenzy" Sudol); she thinks Kowalski is on the cute side, even if his mind is going to need to be "obliviated" once their adventure is over. Is it a coincidence that "Queenie" was the name of a middle-aged witch in everyone's favorite muggle/magus romance Bell Book and Candle?

You'll want to see Philippe Rousselot's photography on an IMAX screen if possible, to take in the terrifically detailed NYC landscapes, with their pomp and squalor. Colin Farrell is magically evil as a snappily dressed enforcer who is secretly preying on a poor half-wit (Ezra Miller); Ron Perlman is a speakeasy proprietor who looks like a demon version of H. L. Mencken. The effects are dazzling, but you may need an obliviation spell to forget having seen similar ones in Doctor Strange—the buildings that repair themselves, or the apple that eats itself while floating in the air.

Struggles desperately to be three movies at once: One about Pokemon, one about proto-Voldemort and one (uncharacteristically dark story) about child abuse. But none of these three movies are bad movies so _Fantastic Beasts_ gets a pass from me.

I was particularly fond of the degree to which it tied into the Harry Potter world at large. There were moments were I went “Oh Harry’s used that same spell before!” or characters that fitted naturally into the narrative being mentioned, as opposed to getting all _Agents of SHIELD_ season 1 on us, and awkwardly name-dropping something from the other films every 5 minutes, just in case we forgot, which was what I was afraid it might do.

End result, _Fantastic Beasts_ is a flawed film that I was still very happy to have watched, and exceeded my expectations.

_Final rating:★★★ - I personally recommend you give it a go._

I must say I was expecting to like it, and I really liked it despite the few generic moments throughout the film.

Can watch again/10.

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