Review: Small briefcase full of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ hits the big city

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Review: Small briefcase full of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ hits the big city

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In case you’re wondering if anything new — besides a thieving Niffler, a companionable Bowtruckle and the cutest actor to ever grace the modern age film industry — was just added to the Potterverse, then the answer would be yes.

J.K. Rowling and director David Yates have whimsically prolonged our infatuation with the magical world, reincarnating the Harry Potter” series in the enchanting prequel, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Besides writing the original novel that inspired this adaptation, Rowling was the sole screenwriter for this successful new entry, once again affirming our notions of her godly existence. Kudos to her; there’s never a rough patch with Harry Potter, seeing as it’s the ninth film in the series and we’re still going strong.

On a short visit to the ragtime hustle-bustle of New York in 1926, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) impetuously catches our attention as our newest magical hero in an older age of magic. En route from London after gathering exotic and fantastical beasts, this British magizoologist is in the process of writing a helpful handbook, titled, you guessed it, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

In one of the first scenes to the movie, when Newt meets the “No-maj” (or, in British English, “muggle”) pastry-connoisseur Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a silver Occamy egg hatches. The little beast is almost a greeting to the viewer, as if to say, “Welcome to the beginning of something shiny, something new.”

The intertwining plotlines of the Obscurus and our dynamic trio’s hilarious rapport give the movie an electric spark of what’s-next and who-can-we-trust.”

At the same time, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is vigilantly trying to earn back her position as a law-enforcement “auror” for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). In time, as she comes to join our unsullied hero as his partner in crime, we’re feeling pretty nostalgic hearing Hedwig’s theme in the scenes that used to feature the Harry-Ron-Hermione triumvirate but now feature this dynamic trio.

Newt’s sacred briefcase ends up exploding with whatchamacallits and peculiarities, leaving Tina, Jacob and Newt on an adventurously spun-out and dark expedition to recollect the creatures that escaped. However, MACUSA’s magistrates are none too pleased, already battling to keep the wizarding world concealed as a malignant “Obscurus” creature wreaks death and destruction on New York, even as the nastier issue of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald spreading his ominous crusade persists. The intertwining plotlines of the Obscurus and our dynamic trio’s hilarious rapport give the movie an electric spark of what’s-next and who-can-we-trust.

In a less pressing matter: pie or strudel? Tagging along is Queenie (Alison Sudol), Tina’s legilimens sister whose mind-reading skills and flapper-girl image catch the affections of the sweet-toothed Kowalski.

On the sidelines, Credence (Ezra Miller) and his Puritan-like adopted mother Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) are busy recreating the Salem witch hunts in their quest to expose witches and wizards. Credence is taken under the wing of MACUSA’s Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), thus entering a relationship founded upon vague yet almost-sexualized intentions uttered in their silhouetted, dark-alley get-togethers.

(Give Credence a break — he’s obviously being edged out of the closet by Graves, who doesn’t mind manipulating anybody for the information he wants.)

In the end, one of the movie’s most prominent selling points is its characterization — namely Newt’s. Aside from his looks and unbridled charm, what really makes him attractive is how much he cares about his cause. He’s willing to risk his life for the well-being of his creatures, and his desire to educate his fellow witches and wizards reveals an altruistic nature that gives him meaning, but never burdens his conscience or leaves a lightning scar in its wake.

But let’s not forget Newt’s fashion, because hey, it’s even got original “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe jealous.

“I got jeans and a zip top for 10 years and you’ve got a great coat already,” Radcliffe, clearly envious, said about Redmayne in an NME magazine interview.

Well, Dan, I heard that Redmayne has a dozen other copies of the same coat — so hook a fellow Potterhead up?

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