Thought the Wizarding World only existed in the UK? Not so. Dive into America's magic community circa 1926 in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of five planned films in a Harry Potter spinoff (with JK Rowling as screenwriter) centering on Newt Scamander, the author of one of Potter's school textbooks. Here's what critics are saying:
- "There's a lot going on. Sometimes too much," but director David Yates "keeps the overstuffed story zipping along for the most part," writes Joe Dziemianowicz at the New York Daily News. The flick has "eye-popping wonders" and "genuine heart," while Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston both deliver winning performances, he adds. "Fantastic is right."
- When it comes to great movies, "whatever that magic formula is, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has it," writes Rafer Guzman at Newsday. It's "one of those movies that feels instantly real, as if its people and places already existed, not just once we took our seats." He especially commends Yates and Redmayne for creating "a rare kind of magic that's a pleasure to watch."
- Chris Nashawaty wasn't nearly as impressed. If this spinoff "plans on replicating Potter's success, its sequels will have to step it up," he writes at Entertainment Weekly. He found the film "oddly lifeless" with "surprisingly flat" performances (with the exception of Redmayne's). This new world Rowling has created in her screenwriting debut "isn't nearly as rich as the world of Hogwarts," he adds.
- Brian Truitt disagrees. Yes, Fantastic Beasts "tries to do way too much in two hours" but it's still "a confident and surprisingly funny adventure that's more charming than most of the eight Harry Potter films," he writes at USA Today. While wrangling beasts on the loose, Scamander discovers something sinister afoot, which lets Rowling play with her usual themes of tolerance and inequality. Her fans will be "salivating for a sequel."
(Read more movie review