Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Poor Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, sensitive bordering on priggish): all this English wizard wants to do is protect the world’s magical animals from “the most vicious creature on earth: humans.” But doing so means traveling to America, where even the wizards are against him — right off the boat, he’s picked up for possession of contraband critters. Further, the Yanks have “backwards relations with no-majs” (“no-maj" being the local term for the non-magical): for one thing, no intermarriage. To make matters worse, a bunch of anti-magic crusaders are at work, righteously rousing the rabble. They’ve got some reason to be afraid, what with the strange and violent goings on of late, and as we’re reminded, “when no-maj’s are afraid, they attack.” (It’s the reason the wizards have gone underground.) But what the pious monsters don’t realize is that Freud was right: the greatest evil arises from denying your magic identity in early childhood. And finally, there’s a dark wizard about, one who would like nothing more than to have it out with the portion of the population that can’t control minds and manipulate matter at will. Set against all these thunderous themes are the antics of a bunch of uninspired imaginary animals — sorry, fantastic beasts — and an astonishingly winning supporting cast that very nearly atones for everything else. (2016) — Matthew Lickona

Rated PG-13 | 2 hours, 13 minutes
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