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The cornerstone of the “Harry Potter” universe is magic. The magic has gone missing in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a lavish visual feast that nonetheless fails to cast any new spells over its audience.

Sure, those pre-sold on J.K. Rowling’s brand of whimsical fantasy will find plenty to dive into in this expansion pack to Potter’s world. But it’s not just Muggles who will find the film’s pacing lethargic, its plot needlessly overcomplicated and its soul missing.

The film unfolds in a stunningly rendered 1920s New York, where Hogwarts graduate Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives with a suitcase full of magical creatures: Nifflers, Bowtruckles and other critters with names that sound like something you’d say to someone after they sneeze.

His suitcase is mistakenly swapped out with that of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a baker and a “no-maj” — as in “no magic,” the term given here for American Muggles — which leads to an adventure through the world of wizards and all the conflicts and warring parties therein. There’s the Magical Congress of the United States of America, or MACUSA; an extremist group called the New Salem Philanthropic Society; and so on.

What’s lost is the simple story of a boy wizard, replaced by agencies and adults (ugh) who don’t have near the same element of wonder.

Director David Yates steered the final four “Harry Potter” movies, so he knows the terrain. But his complacency is part of the problem with “Fantastic Beasts”: It’s a brand new story that already feels like it’s going through the motions.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13: for some fantasy action violence

Running time:

133 minutes

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