"I absolutely loved that movie! Now can you please summarize the whole thing? I was really confused."
That is a direct quote from my nine year old daughter a few minutes after our family saw "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
To provide a bit of perspective, my wife and kids are Harry Potter fanatics. I too love the books and like the movies... but compared to them, I am a lowly Muggle (or No-Maj in the U.S.A.). My family has repeatedly read, listened to and watched every Harry Potter story. We own every book related to the Harry Potter series (although I am the only one who has not read all of the side projects). Therefore, my wife and kids already knew quite a bit about the main character Newt Scamander. I knew just enough to understand he was connected to the first stories.
The Harry Potter fanatics in my house loved the movie. I liked it.
My daughter's quote pretty much sums up the plot. There is a lot going on. There are a ton of characters to keep track of as well as little "Easter eggs" connecting this prequel to the Harry Potter series.
Without revealing any spoilers, the story is a prequel to Harry Potter set in New York in the year 1926. The action centers around Newt Scamander, an expert and lover of magical creatures. His magical briefcase serves as a Noah's Ark for these endangered creatures. Due to people's lack of understanding them, the beasts are feared throughout many parts of the world... but not by our hero. He understands the beasts and therefore loves them. Perhaps the lesson that one should not allow ignorance to cause them to fear and hate living beings is worth the price of admission alone.
Newt journeys to America on a secret mission. When he arrives, he accidentally switches briefcases with a No-Maj (the American name for non-magic users). Then, several of the creatures escape. The remainder of the movie revolves around trying to recapture the lost beasts while the heroes also try to solve the mystery behind magical attacks occurring in New York city. The story is a bit complicated (especially for kids) and it does slow down for a few stretches, but there is enough action to keep the audience interested.
The visual effects are stunning!
As with everything JK Rowling creates, the story has a huge heart. One does not have to look very hard to find examples of understanding, acceptance, love, loyalty and determination. One can just as easily find examples of betrayal, ignorance, prejudice and hatred. In other words, the movie does a great job of making it very easy for a child to tell the difference between the god guys and the bad guys.
Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne plays the role of Newt Scamander perfectly. He is a bit awkward and unsure of himself. He never gives the impression that he is a very powerful wizard. Newt is clearly more comfortable with animals than with people and Redmayne portrays this amazingly well. The remainder of the cast is fine. Sorry for the use of that word "fine", but it honestly is the best description. Although no one is going to win an Oscar for his/her performance, they also won't "win" a Razzie either.
Honestly, none of the actors were the star of the movie. The stars are the Fantastic Beasts themselves. The first 30 minutes of the movie were a bit slow... but when the characters finally enter the briefcase, it is impossible to be bored. I honestly felt like viewing the movie was like a trip to an super natural zoo. Even when the characters were attempting to explain part of the complicated plot, you could simply sit back and be amazed by the visuals. Every scene involving the creatures is visually stunning. Luckily there are many such scenes. Many of them are also very funny. My kids loved them! When I asked my daughter who her favorite character was, she quickly responded, "All of the creatures".
Picket the Bowtruckle was my family's favorite beast.
I do have one warning. If you are going to attend this movie, you must be able to thoroughly suspend your disbelief. Because the word "Magical" is in the title, this may seem fairly obvious. However, whatever amount you expected would be required, please double it. From an adult's point of view, the movie has many plot holes. Don't worry, I won't spoil them here. From a kid's point of view... who cares? They will just be dazzled by the fun.
If your kids like Harry Potter, they will love this movie. As far as adults go, if you can be entertained by some fun action and amazing special effects, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" will be worth your while.
There are some scary parts of the movie. If it helps you decide whether or not this movie is right for your kids, my 9 year old daughter isn't super brave when it comes to movies and she was never really scared. My 11 year old son was not scared at all. If your kids are younger than this, you might want to talk directly to a friend who has already seen it.
Geeky Dad's Movie Guide
Number of times I fell asleep: 0
Number of eye rolls: 1
Number of face palms: 0
Number of times my kids asked to go to the bathroom or get food out of sheer boredom: 0
Number of times I checked steemit: 1
Number of times I said "That's ridiculous": 0 (I was willing to totally suspend disbelief)
Did my kids like it: Yes!
Would I see it without my kids: Probably (because my wife is a Harry Potter fanatic)
Full price/Matinee/Rental/Free/Not worth the time: Full Price for Kids and Harry Potter fanatics, Bargain Matinee for adults