Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them Parent Review
Appreciation of this production will depend largely on how you feel about its depictions of the occult, portrayals of violence, and possible secondary messages.
Seventy years before Harry Potter attended Hogwarts School and read the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the manual’s author Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) was busy collecting data and specimens from around the globe. One of his stops was New York City. And that is where this spin-off tale from JK Rowling’s universe of wizards and witches begins.
It turns out that the new world has different laws about the use of magic than Britain does. Here the Magical Congress of the United States of America is disappointed by the UK’s Ministry of Magic and their failure to capture a dark wizard named Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Such sloppy security threatens to reveal the existence of wizards and witches to the No-mags (the American name for Muggles). The governing body is also experiencing problems on their home turf where a dark and uncontrollable force is wreaking havoc on the city and innocent bystanders. In an effort to contain the damage, they have cracked down on their members. One of the new rules prohibits the ownership of fantastic beasts because, if one escaped, their secret society could be exposed.
Either ignoring or ignorant of the ban, Newt Scamander arrives in the Big Apple with a suitcase full of these creatures. A cross between Doctor Dolittle and Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon, the quirky and not very careful animal lover soon loses a kleptomaniac platypus in the banking district. In a vain effort to retrieve the critter he accidentally switches brown cases with a No-mag named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and gets spotted by Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) an agent of the Magical Congress.
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What ensues is the American Wizard and Witches worst nightmare. Kowalski accidentally lets other magical creatures out of the bag. Scamander causes more problems than he solves while trying to round them up. Tina’s attempt to inform Madame President (Carmen Ejogo) of the crisis is thwarted. A radical religious order lead by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) begins calling for a witch hunt. And the whole affair is further complicated by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a powerful wizard who is involved in a mysterious, private investigation.
Fans of the Harry Potter franchise are sure to be enchanted by this opportunity to re-enter his magical world. Special effects render the strange and unusual beasts in realistic wonder, as well as creating amazing scenes of devastating property damage and instantaneous repairs. All the usual wand dueling and spell casting are portrayed too. And the script nicely mixes the humorous bungling of Scamander and Kowalski with the serious and sinister intentions of Graves.
The ever-present depictions of detailed danger, deaths and destruction will likely be too much for younger viewers. Even audiences that are older may be disturbed by the abuse inflicted on Credence (Ezra Miller), the adopted son of the pious Mary Lou. Not only does his mother regularly beat the evil out of him (his lashed and bleeding hands are shown), the teen is also the victim of manipulation by the handsome Graves, who professes to understand the boy’s repressed desires to be a wizard and express himself freely.
If you sense some questioning of sexual orientation within this character, you might be right. Creator of the Harry Potter Franchise and screenwriter of this production, JK Rowling announced in 2007 that headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay, and hints that she intends to explore more LGBTQ issues within the Beast’s stories (this is to be the first of a five-part series).
Whether or not you wish to draw parallels between these two closeted groups, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does offer themes that can be interpreted on a broader basis too. Feelings of being misunderstood are common, and the longing to be accepted for one’s true self is universal. Goldstein and Scamander’s compassion is commendable. And Kowalski defies stereotypes after this rather average guy attracts the attention of an extraordinary woman (Alison Sudol).
As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So your appreciation of this production will depend largely on how you see these depictions of the occult, portrayals of violence, and possible secondary messages.Directed by David Yates. Starring Ezra Miller, Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell . Running time: 133 minutes. Updated November 22, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them here.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them Parents Guide
The name of the radical religious group is the Second Salemers. This title makes reference to Salem, Massachusetts and the witch hunts that occurred there. What message do you think the screenwriter was hoping to send by calling the zealots by that name? Learn more about the history of the Salem Witch Trials. Do you think she may have been trying to create similar mental connections by giving Jewish surnames to some of her characters?
There are several groups facing prejudice in this movie. How misjudged are Scamander, his fantastic beasts, Kowalski, the pretty Queeny, the serious Tina, the community of witches and wizards, the witch hunters and Credence? How do outward appearances fail to represent the real nature of each of these characters?
One of the characters tell another not to worry because doing so means you have to suffer twice. What do you think he means? What do you think of his advice?