J.K. Rowling goes full Dickens (or at least Dickensian) in an absolute dreary slog of a story full of mysterious bloodlines, secret and/or forbidden and/or frustrated love affairs, unfeeling social mores, class struggle, wretched bureaucracy, fractured families, and awkward allegories. Oh, and a big, weird speech from Johnny Depp as the titular criminal about how wizards have to rule the world in order to save humanity from themselves, as if being magical necessarily had anything to do with being good. Along the way, there are some nifty bits of CGI – black silken sheets rippling through the Parisian cityscape were very nice, and Eddie Redmayne’s fantastic animal-lover gets a fun sequence where he uses flashback magic to play fellow social misfit Sherlock Holmes. But dash it all, even the devoted will likely struggle with the reams of expository talk and gobs of unearned feeling and scads of largely pointless beasties, plus some just plain lazy visuals (looking at you, magic cats). Director David Yates does what he can to provide motion and mood, but gets bogged down in the narrative and dramatic muddle. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
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