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Saturday, December 15, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

Movie Review: ‘Beasts’ not so ‘Fantastic’

Wednesday, December 5, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” has fantastic special effects, fantastic casting and fantastic acting.

As for the storyline: not so fantastic.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a big disappointment and isn’t much better than the reboot, or “Harry Potter” prequel, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016).

Fans of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books, movies and theme parks who want to see “Fantastic Beasts” may want to do so in the 3D format, in which the movie was seen for this review. Beasts, swirling effects and objects appear to float before your eyes, zoom directly at you and whiz by your head.

Johnny Depp is a post-punk rock Grindelwald, resembling Billy Idol, with a straight-up shock of white hair, and David Bowie, with a declamatory stance and British accent. Depp glowers and grimaces to great success.

Eddie Redmayne is a nervous, twitchy, distracted Newt Scamander, with an angular, almost hunched-back posture, and off-kilter gait.

Katherine Waterston is a demure, if forthright, Tina Goldstein, a kind of sidekick to Newt Scamander, and presents the character she portrays as the most grounded of the lot.

Jude Law is impressive as Albus Dumbledore, with a logical look and an effective supportive if authoritative approach to the role.

Memorable in supporting roles are Zoë Kravitz (Leta Lestrange), Carmen Ejogo (Seraphina Picquery) and Ezra Miller (Credence Barebone).

If only these fine actors would have been given dialogue and plotlines that are compelling, and made sense.

As the title trumpets, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a crime-drama procedural, or should be. Alas, it is not.

David Yates, who directed “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and is scheduled to direct the next three “Fantastic Beasts” movies, is the keeper of the “Harry Potter” cinematic flame. Yates directed “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (2011), “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” (2010), “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009) and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007).

The screenplay by J.K. Rowling is of chief interest to “Harry Potter” fans, with its character and story background detail. The casual movie-goer will be aghast, confused and uninvolved.

The cinematography by Philippe Rousselot, director of photography, is gorgeous and impressive, combined, of course, with gargantuan special effects.

The music by James Newton Howard helps move forward the emotions of the characters and the action scenes, which are numerous.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” needs more scenes where character interaction and bonding is emphasized, allowing the movie-goer to enjoy their relationships. And the movie needs to be more fun. This is one grim, dark world of wizardry. The film goes off the rails on the way to Hogwarts, where briefly we see students flying off to the Quiditch Stadium.

Perhaps the film-makers were going for an older demographic, or trying to appeal to fans of the original “Harry Potter” book series and movies, who are now in their mid- to late-20s. Perhaps “Harry Potter” fans will find “The Crimes of Grindelwald” immensely appealing.

Perhaps.

This fan of the original “Harry Potter” books and movies series found “The Crimes of Grindelwald” to be ponderous, pontificating and predictable. “Fantastic Beasts” are sequels to be endured rather than enjoyed.

This reviewer wishes he could wave a magic wand and make the “Fantastic Beasts” series disappear. I’m just not all that interested in parsing the minutae of what is now the “Harry Potter Universe.” Just give me good story and plot.

“The World of Harry Potter” is a cinematic and entertainment juggernaut. The film has a cliffhanger for the announced “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Part 3, set for 2020 release. Also planned are Parts 4 and 5, set for release in 2022 and 2024, respectively.

The fascination with the original “Harry Potter” books and movies has to do with the charm of the childhood imagination. In the “Fantastic Beasts” series, the actors look as though they’re doing Cosplay at a Comic Con convention.

That’s OK.

But it doesn’t make for fantastic cinema.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers. for for some sequences of fantasy action; Genre: Fantasy, Adventure; Run time: 2 hrs., 14 mins. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

Box Office, Nov. 30: “Ralph Breaks The Internet” continued at No. 1, two weeks in a row, with $25.5 million, $119.1 million, two weeks.

2. “Dr Seuss’ The Grinch,” $17.9 million, $203.7 million, four weeks. 3. “Creed II,” $16.6 million, $80.9 million, two weeks. 4. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald,” $11.3 million, $134.5 million, three weeks. 5. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” $8 million, $164.3 million, five weeks. 6. “Instant Family,” $7.1 million, $45.9 million, three weeks. 7. “The Possession Of Hannah Grace, $6.4 million, opening. 8. “Robin Hood,” $4.7 million, $21.8 million, two weeks. 9. “Widows,” $4.4 million, $33 million, three weeks. 10. “Green Book,” $3.9 million, $14 million, three weeks.

Unreel, Dec. 7:

“Mary Queen of Scots,” R: Josie Rourke directs Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, and Joe Alwyn in the Biography History Drama. Mary Stuart tries to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England.

“Ben Is Back,” R: Peter Hedges directs Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, and Kathryn Newton in the Drama. A son who visits his family on Christmas Eve brings a Santa sackful of coal and trouble.

“Vox Lux,” R: Brady Corbet directs Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Christopher Abbott, and Willem Dafoe in the Music Drama about a fictional pop star’s success.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes