Synopsis: Magical zoologist, Newt Scamander travels to NYC with a case full of fantastic beasts. Enter mishaps, mayhem and a host of new J.K. Rowling characters.
Never have I ever seen such an awesome menagerie of animals or such an adorably bumbling wizard as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Following up on the Harry Potter movies is a tall order as fans have an unerring eye for who belongs or not and a reluctance to leave the Harry Potter story path. Fortunately, J.K. Rowling and Eddie Redmayne are onboard to guide us as, respectively, storyteller and star.
Eddie R. is magizoologist Newt Scamander who travels in 1926 from Britain to New York City with his case full of fantastic beasts. He is good and earnest and devoted to his charges. His mission is to repatriate a giant golden hawk to the wilds of Arizona. Like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, Newt’s case is bigger on the inside — big enough to house an entire sanctuary of magical creatures and their replicated habitats. Each species has been christened by J.K. with names like niffler and bowtruckle. Newt’s magical animalia includes: a little sloth yeti, a hedgehoggish platypus who likes shiny baubles, owl-faced mini llamas, birdie serpents, leaf twiggies and a female glow-rhino looking for a mate. Big hearted as he is, Newt might also be a hoarder.
Newt can’t resist touring the Big Apple and he soon runs across a street preacher, the anti-witch zealot, Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She runs a hate group and sends hungry street urchins out to distribute propaganda. She doles out abuse to her three foster children, especially to Credence (Ezra Miller). The implied beatings
are horrible but perhaps her biggest crime is forcing Credence to endure the world’s worst haircut, an ungodly union of Spock bangs, patches that look like they’ve been hastily shaved due to lice and bowl cut.
I wanted to spend lots of time gazing at Newt’s magical zoo but things get shaken up when Newt accidentally exchanges cases with baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and numerous beasts escape. Newt tries to track them down around the city with the help of Jacob. Meanwhile, the USA’s Magical Congress and President Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) attempt to contain outbreaks of magic that threaten to expose witches and wizards to the non-magical populations. Things get dark and scary when Colin Farrell as Percival Graves hunts an obscurus — a smoky parasite creature that can make itself ginormous and blast through buildings. And Graves has a connection to Credence. So does former auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston).
It would be a lot easier for Newt to wrangle his animals and be on his way if he wasn’t persecuted every step of the way by Tina. She is personable and helpful to everyone but our mild-mannered hero. You see, Tina was demoted from fighting dark magic and is looking to crack a big case to get her career back on track. She’s always arresting Newt for being an unregistered wizard and dragging him in front of Magical Congress bigwigs. Newt meekly submits and doesn’t even resent her attempts to have him jailed. Tina doggedly pursues him to the point of endangering his case of animals and maybe even getting him executed!
Oh, we’re also supposed to care that a bad wizard named Grindelwald is trying to provoke a war between the magical and nonmagical worlds. We don’t care though because we’re too engrossed in whether Newt and his fantastic beasts will survive Tina. Why doesn’t he tell her to Fudge Off! already?! But, there is a clue… apparently when Newt was a student at Hogwarts he was in a toxic relationship with the bewitching Leta Lestrange. She shows up in a photo in Newt’s zoo office as the sultry Zoe Kravitz. He’s so traumatized by whatever she did to him that he refuses to speak of it when Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), a sympathetic mind reader asks about her. Mystery solved: Newt has been conditioned to respond to abusive behavior from attractive women with stammering submissiveness.
You will have to see the movie to find out if Newt’s NYC adventure will build his self esteem to the point where he will demand the respect that he deserves. You’ll long for Newt to shout: I’m not your meal ticket to a promotion, Tina! I’m a human being/ wizard and I deserve respect, for fudge’s sake!
Go on Newt’s journey of self discovery and animal rescue. You’ll learn that
sometimes we need to save not only a roving hedgehoggish platypus creature with a pouchful of coins and jewels, but ourselves as well.
Cut to the Chase: Lots of magic, spectacle and intriguing new characters.
Comedy Highlight: Newt performs a courtship dance for a glow-rhino.