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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Zoe Kravitz, Gemma Chan, Katherine Waterson, Samantha Morton, Carmen Ejogo, Lucie Pohl, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Christine Marzano, Kamil Lemieszewski, Jenn Murray, Kevin Guthrie

Director: David Yates

Five years after the Harry Potter films finally ended (please!), J K Rowling’s Midas-touched money machine is rolling again, this time with a brand new treat of movie magic that, apart from a couple of passing remarks (Dumbledore gets a name check) happily ignores Hogwarts in favour of Darkest New York in 1926.

There mysterious forces are causing destruction and chaos and and brand-new wizarding hero Newt Scamander, played to perfection (a sorcerer who can really act!) by Redmayne when he arrives on a mission to rescue and research magical creatures and ends up having to save the Big Apple from destruction…

As one might expect from a supernatural hero, Redmayne carries magical creatures around in his unassuming brown case – and when No-Mag (American for Muggle) Fogler accidentally switches cases and then unleashes the magical beasts, leaving Redmayne (“I’m more of a chaser”), Fogler and assorted Good Guys, Bad Guys and both Magical and Malign women to save Mankind and the secret American wizarding worlds from killer conflict and destruction…

Rowling’s screenplay (her first) is packed with more than enough characters and fairy-tale incident to keep magic-loving moviegoers happily entertained for over two hours with director David Yates (veteran of five Harry Potter movies) moving the narrative briskly and maintaining a agreeable balance between thrills, chills and superb Oscar-worthy special effects that not only create memorable beasts but also transform New York into nightmare visions of destruction and reconstruction that would leave Godzilla and his simulated celluloid ilk simmering with envy.

(New York is particularly impressive to look at both in health and under attack when you realise the film was shot in England!)

Key performances are spot on – the actors, notably Redmayne, Farrell as a lawmaker turned nasty, Waterston, Sudol and Morton, with a welcome turn from Voight as a media baron and a brief but chilling appearance from Johnny Depp (even nastier than the cost of a UK IMAX ticket), create credible characters and never allow mere movie magic to reduce their dramatic impact while James Newton Howard’s plangent score never runs out of notes – even when it has to accompany the hundreds of names featured in the seemingly endless end credits.

All in all, thoroughly welcome family entertainment that leaves you satisfied and looking forward to the already announced sequels.

And Rowling deserves extra credit for her truly magical clairvoyance – I noticed a bunch of posters on a wall in New York read “SAVE AMERICA FROM WITCHES”.

Eat your heart out, Hillary!

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2016. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour.
132 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 15 Nov 2016