J.K. Rowling's adventures of a young wizard named Harry Potter have entrenched themselves in pop culture. Books, movies, theme parks, wand TV remotes... the franchise continues to swallow book worms whole. After the series came to an end in two parts, a relief for some and travesty for others, we thought we'd seen the end of Potter's world. However, like some American public house sitcoms... some things have a way of reviving themselves through what is called an open air quotes... spin-off... close air quotes, just ask Frasier.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows the adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. It's a stand-alone film that exists within the Harry Potter universe, feeding into the lore and showing a similar consistency, delivering its own story without Potter or Radcliffe.
While visual effects wizardry and wondrous sound design rules, the imaginative story doesn't get left behind... even if it may have started as a desperate attempt to reinvigorate the Potter dynasty. Rowling's writing seems boundless as we slip into magical briefcases, encounter a number of funny, familiar yet unheard-of beasts and are whisked away into an enchanted world between worlds.
Guided by the enigmatic Redmayne, given a sense of humour by Fogler, counterbalanced by the ever-suave Farrell and enlivened by the Goldstein sisters, played by Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol, there's a never-ending supply of laughs and fun characters.
"One day I hope to call it Newt York..."
Redmayne is a bit of a cold fish but has an otherworldliness about him, clouding himself in questions and refocusing us on the perilous yet magical adventure. While we never really get any answers, he's surrounded by a troupe of likable co-stars with Fogler playing into a buddy movie dynamic to root the New York element with some funny and charming interplay.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn't delve too deeply into Scamander's life and without a substantial emotional investment, the adventure does seem a little superficial. Although you won't really notice this aspect thanks to good pacing, smart writing and eye-popping visuals. There's never a dull moment as Newt's briefcase of tricks causes havoc across the city and magic society.
We enjoy the same level of quality we've come to expect from the Harry Potter series under the direction of David Yates with a brand new layered tale. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is enriched by some smart allegories that feed back to the here and now. A lot of thought has gone into the film and it shows without becoming over-reliant on its Harry Potter heritage, but appealing to the same generation of fans who grew up with Rowling, who may have kids of their own by now.