Do you ever have that feeling, when you want to like something so badly? And you’ve assured yourself that it isn’t even that awful, that it must be perfectly logical to like it. For me, I would love to enjoy lemon meringue pie. I’m not sure why I don’t like it. I love the meringue bit on top and the texture of the pie itself. I just don’t like all the ingredients together. Many people adore this dessert. I am not amongst them. I just didn’t expect Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to be my lemon meringue pie.
I adore the wizarding world of Harry Potter. I really, truly do. From a young age, I’ve been charmed and awed by Rowling’s spellbinding words. I’ve gotten an inspired tattoo as a subtle nod to the world that captured me so completely. And yet, Fantastic Beasts failed to fully propel me back into that world, despite the film’s many bewitching qualities.
Fantastic Beasts has a beautiful cast. Eddie Redmayne, who plays the lead of Newt Scamander, plays his role to a gentle, curious perfection. His rotund, accidental sidekick, Jacob Kowalski, is played by Dan Fogler. In one scene, they have a small but endearing conversation as they traverse the lamp-lit streets of New York City. Newt remarks how “People like you, don’t they, Mr. Kowalski?” Caught off guard, Kowalski doesn’t give a lot of thought before responding with “I’m sure people like you, too.”
“Not really, no. I annoy people,” is Newt’s immediate response. I couldn’t help but smile. He relays all of this nonchalant honesty so innocently. It is such a Hufflepuff thing to say.
Their chemistry was quite nice. Newt and Kowalski weren’t really supposed to be associated due to the fact that they belonged to completely different worlds. However, they kept managing to get mixed up in mayhem together amidst honest mistakes and interesting incidents.
Katherine Waterston, who played a rather determined witch named Tina, and her lack of facial expressions irked me. Her character was feisty but tediously reckless. Repeatedly trying to gain favor with her superiors by bringing them matters of lesser importance, she keeps coming up short. The actress herself doesn’t seem to have any real emotional connection with her character, and it takes a lot of the magic out of the story.
Because the story is magic. All of it. It follows a man from England visiting New York City with a nondescript briefcase full of pesky, clever, wonderful creatures. Whether you are a Potterhead or not, you will enjoy this film. Kowalski serves as the anchor to the real world. He views everything from a non-magical perspective. For those who are not familiar with any of J. K. Rowling’s work, his reactions to various scenes could be quite reflective of the audience. A meal being put together with a few waves of a wand; milk, sugar, and dough gliding through the air while a table sets itself. A suitcase that is bigger on the inside, just like a portable, leather TARDIS. A small rodent-like creature sailing through the air directed by a spell. For those who have grown up with Harry Potter, this movie could still serve as an amusing treat.
Those were the delicious ingredients. But not everything was delectable in this film. Too often, the story swooped and dove from one plot to the other. Some plotlines seemed too insignificant to even pay them any heed. During some short, bright, creature-filled scenes, I felt like the Niffler yanked from his shiny things. Why couldn’t I just stay there a little longer? What harm could it do? Other bits involving politics, mysterious meetings, too-long scenes, and poor acting detracted from the film. Halfway through the movie, I was quite tired of Tina and her shenanigans. Even Kowalski was losing his spark. During one moment in the rain, there was such a heavy emphasis put on his character. It perplexed me. When he learns that Newt genuinely thinks of him as a friend, it blows his mind. Even though Kowalski is aware of his amiable personality and enjoyable company. Just because I didn’t ultimately like him, doesn’t mean others wouldn’t.
I understand that this film serves as a prequel to many more movies to come. But did it have to be quite so all over the place with everything? It left me feeling unexpectedly dissatisfied. I tried to eat this slice of lemon meringue pie. But I would rather have a different dessert.