Eddie Redmayne and Dan Fogler are reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter prequel film “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.” I’m not even talking about their similar physiques. They play beautifully off one another as the ever so aloof yet experienced magician and the poor soul who’s inadvertently caught up in a world that does not seem possible. Redmayne & Fogler are so good together I’d love to see them do a lighthearted comedy outside the fantasy franchise.
It’s also fair to say the rest of the cast are a welcome pleasure in this American interpretation of Rowling’s absorbing universe. Colin Farrell is a mysterious and determined antagonist, Jon Voight offers a nice small role as a non magic politician appearing to belong in this early 20th century New York City and Katherine Waterstone and Alison Sudol are adorable yet smart companions for the heroes. Ezra Miller continues to show great range. He’s a wonderful actor that can carry cute humor as The Flash in the DC films but here can be an incredibly disturbing and fearful mouse of a kid that harbors a dark secret. I’m proud to say he’s from my hometown of Wyckoff, NJ. (I also recommend you check out Ezra Miller in a very disturbing yet engaging film called “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”)
So the cast is great. The effects, the set designs and the sound effects are also spectacular. Director David Yates really brings a viewer into this world where you feel like you are walking down brick alleyways and walking downstairs to a secret, yet magical speakeasy bar. You’ll also convince yourself that you step into a suitcase and into an infinite world of fantasy. You can’t take your eyes off it and you just want to pause the film and explore. Fogler does very well as such an explorer by the way. James Newton Howard’s musical score of bombastic horns, sweet piano as well as his wise choices not to play any music during some scenes enhance the surroundings even further. It’s just beautiful music.
All that said, and yet there’s a major problem with the film. Rowling’s script and Yates’ edited direction is splattered all over the place. There is so much going on that it’s difficult at times (even on my 2nd viewing) to connect the dots of what one thing has to do with five others. Redmayne’s character of Newt Scaramanger along with Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski and the ladies pursue creatures through the city that managed to escape Scaramanger’s magical suitcase. It’s fun, yes. At the same time however, Farrell is on his own separate pursuit of a girl with great power, and recruits Miller to reluctantly join him. The film clobbers it’s way back and forth between the storylines and suspense is brought to a minimum because neither side is threatening the other. There’s no race against one another. The two parties are just doing their own thing. It’s as if two movies crashed into one another and there’s guts lying all over the floor of two, once beautiful, souls.
David Yates suffers from that at times in his prior Harry Potter efforts. He Jackson Pollacks the heck out of his films. So much is thrown at you that you truly appreciate the simpler scenes when actors have a chance to just show the best of their respective performance talents.
Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to “The Crimes Of Grindlewald.” This is fun stuff despite the work it takes to decipher it all and truly comprehend, it’s a great time at the movies.
NOTE: I recently acquired a 4K Ultra Player. This is a spectacular example of how effective this upgrade in home theatre can be. If you get a player for your home, you’ll appreciate “Fantastic Beasts…” so much more. Simply gorgeous in color.