The Culture Movies

'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' has too much of a good thing

'Fantastic' stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a magical creatures expert who accidentally lets loose a menagerie of creepy-crawlies in 1926 New York. Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol co-star.

Eddie Redmayne in a scene from "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros./AP
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  • Peter Rainer
    Film critic

Having exhausted the Harry Potter cosmos, J.K. Rowling has set in motion a new franchise linked tangentially to the old one. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first screenplay written directly for the screen by Rowling and directed by “Harry Potter” movie veteran David Yates, is about the exploits of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the author of a textbook on magic used by Harry Potter. Reportedly Rowling and Co. are signed up for four sequels. Here we go again.

It’s all fairly entertaining, as Newt the wizard-scholar accidentally lets loose a menagerie of creepy-crawlies in 1926 New York and then confronts the havoc they wreak. Along for the ride are Tina (Katherine Waterston), a security officer with the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), and her frizzy blond Jazz Age sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol); Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a shifty MACUSA operative; and Jacob (Dan Fogler), a baker who gets swept up in the acceptably rendered CGI proceedings. Jacob and Queenie fall in love, and their scenes have a sweetness that reminded me of the clueless lovebirds Papageno and Papagena in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

Rowling has a voluminous imagination and Yates keeps things humming along, although, as was also true of many “Potter” movies, there is often too much of a good thing. But the film is fine enough to make you forgive, if not forget, the fact that it exists primarily as a corporate enterprise and not as an imaginative tour de force. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.)