The independent London newspaper

Creature feature in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

21 November, 2016 — By Dan Carrier

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in Warner Bros Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Directed by David Yates
Certificate 12a

WHEN JK Rowling was done with penning the tales of H Potter, she wrote a little spin-off featuring crazy creatures, and it was only a matter of time before it was lifted to tap into the world’s insatiable thirst for her world of wizards, witches, magic and Muggles.

Newt (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York with a suitcase stuffed full of extraordinary animals. He is a conservationist who wants to teach the magic world that the amazing beasts that share their alternate universe need to be protected. He is on a mission to release back into the Arizona plains a magnificent eagle-like creature that had been trafficked to Egypt. But things go wrong almost as soon as he touches down: a duck-billed platypus-looking animal escapes from his bag and scoots into a bank as the little varmint has a penchant for snaffling gold and silver.

He is spotted by a New York witch (Katherine Waterston), working for the State-side equivalent of the Ministry of Magic, and so sets in motion a brilliant opening sequence where we learn the magic world is struggling to ensure the American Muggles don’t discover those with special abilities live among them. In these first scenes, wannabe baker Jacob (Dan Fogler) is hoping for a loan to open a business and becomes drawn into Newt’s world.

Meanwhile, the plot spins off, drawing on the Salem witch trials, as we learn a group of anti-witch evangelicals are hitting the streets to warn of magic ones living in the Big Apple, led by nasty preacher Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton, channelling her inner Cruella De Vil). It is breathless and breath-taking, gorgeous to look at and plot wobbles are smothered by the sheer charm of New York in the 1920s, with brilliant jazz music providing a toe-tapping signature throughout.

With Potter, Rowling acted as a magpie, borrowing shiny elements of classic English literature for children. There are clear influences here too. When the young PG Wodehouse set sail for New York to earn a living as a short story magazine writer, he conjured up plot after plot based on a heart of gold but cack-handed English gent falling for the sassy American gal: a winning formula, he used it in a million Jeeves and Wooster tales, too.

While Redmayne will no doubt win glory for his role, the true star of this film is Jacob. A dreamer who wants to share his grandmother’s recipes for doughnuts, he is the best formed and most likeable character. Scenes come particularly alive when he is centre stage. And while the world fawns over Redmayne, it is time to raise the flag for the anti-Eddie brigade.

Redmayne, borrowing heavily from Hugh Grant, deserves to be held upside down and have his dinner money pinched off him. He is as annoyingly lily-livered a fop as you could possibly imagine, a silly prep school boy who stumbles over his emotions. For those who became sick and tired of Harry Potter – let’s face it, the franchise dragged itself to the finish line – this is refreshing, and nicely sets up a sequel as Johnny Depp makes a late appearance as Potter baddie Grindelwald.


Share this story

Post a comment