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Review: Not-so-fantastic 'Beasts' spins its wheels

Needlessly complicated second chapter in the 'Harry Potter' spinoff series offers little payoff

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Katherine Waterston and Eddie Redmayne in "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald."

The labored second chapter in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter spinoff series is as cumbersome as its title. 

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" is a gangly, overly complicated snooze, a rudderless, magic-free visit into Rowling's world of wizards and wizarding.

Even the beasts aren't all that fantastic, and the visual effects aren't either. Only those well-versed and heavily invested in all things Rowling need apply; "Fantastic Beasts" will have everyone else feeling like a muggle. 

Eddie Redmayne is back as Newt Scamander, an employee of Britain's Ministry of Magic. He's enlisted by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to stop Gellert Grindelwald (a ghostly pale Johnny Depp, looking like he's doing a Jared Leto impression), who aims to start a war between the wizard and non-wizard worlds.

Along the way, there are at least a dozen other prominent characters, each with their own side stories, and keeping everything straight requires more effort than it should. Yet with all that's going on, there's a lack of dramatic tension in the story and it's unclear what exactly is at stake, aside from worldwide box office receipts.

Rowling, who wrote the screenplay, and director David Yates — who helmed the first "Fantastic Beasts" film and the last four "Potter" films — sprinkle in just enough "Potter" references to satiate superfans, although the "Fantastic Beasts" films have as much to do with the Potter world as the current Detroit Pistons have to do with the championship winning Bad Boys. They share the same bloodline, sure, but the comparisons stop there.



'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald'


Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action

Running time: 133 minutes