Rated PG-13

133 Minutes

Released November 18th

I’m not the best audience prospect at films with a lot of CGI characters. I’m always annoyed that the magical creatures are not what I would see in my own imagination. However in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I found my match. The “beasts” are exquisitely created, endowed with physical traits that reflect their personalities. The manifestation and movements of these fabulous creatures touches emotional triggers. Screenwriter J.K. Rowling presents a huge lavish colorful cinematic painting rather than a journey or a joyride. It’s as if you move from one room to another in a house of magical dreams. It will leave you questioning what you think is normal in your world.

In case you’re not a Harry Potter disciple, here is some history to give some depth to the story. Rowling wrote “Fantastic Beasts” book in 2001 in response to a request from the UK anti-poverty charity Comic Relief.   They had asked three best-selling British authors, including Rowling, to submit booklets to aid in their fundraising, so over 80% of the cover price of each book goes to poor children in various places in the world. The story takes place in New York CIty 70 years before the Harry Potter stories begin. ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is found in the Harry Potter story as one of Harry’s textbooks at the Hogwarts Magic Academy. It’s required reading in Magizoology, the study of magical creatures, for first year students, written by magizooligist Newt Scamander.

Director David Yates helmed four installments of the Harry Potter series, so there is a continuation of style. The sound track by James Newton Howard is lush and dreamlike. The cinematography by Phillipe Rousselot and editing by Mark Day (who worked on 4 of the Harry Potter movies) are excellent.

Eddie Redmayne endows “Newt Scamander” with “absent-minded” professor innocence. Dan Fogler as the “non-mag” baker is endearing and believable. Kudos to those two actors for all their scenes with the imaginary animals – think about how hard it is for an actor to “stay in the moment” when they are reacting to an empty space instead of another actor. Katherine Waterston as “Tina” maintains an air of mystery and repressed emotion probably common to 1920’s women. Ezra Miller as “Creedence” personifies the angst of this battered highly intelligent teen. Singer/actor Alison Sudol stands out as the comic relief “Queenie”. She’s self-aware, self-effacing and unfiltered, yet never too over-the-top. All the human characters managed to be low key to let the beasts shine.

This story is a reflection of today’s world in that some of the wild magical creatures are in a suitcase that must be intensely guarded, and that Scamander is trying to establish a sanctuary for them. This movie appears to be a fantastical charming fairy tale, yet it has a much deeper meaning. Through its allegory we are reminded of the fragility of our world and the creatures in it – how easily all could disappear. We witness the fear and loathing that materialize when prejudiced people believe that there is only one right way to think, and that anyone who thinks differently is a threat and must be persecuted. We see how easy it is to generate a witch-hunt.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com