Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

This magical improvement on number two is nearly good as new.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” begins with a would-be romance between the good Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and the evil Gellert Grindlewald (now played by Mads Mikkelsen), who both made a blood oath, one that prevents Dumbledore from defeating him. That’s why he enlists Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his companions-big brother Theseus (Callum Turner), No-Maj baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), and Professor Lally (Jessica Williams)-to defeat him.

That’s the set-up to the threequel to the “Harry Potter” prequel series, which is also an improvement over its last entry “The Crimes of Grindlewald,” mainly because of how it wants us to get involved in the story more and how it keeps its goofy and serious tones in balance. It helps remind us of the good old days within the Wizardly World-how fun, dangerous, and visually stunning they were-especially since David Yates continues to direct.

A lot has changed since the last film. Queenie (Alison Sudol) has entered the dark side with Grindlewald, who has been acquitted of all charges. That same villain kidnaps and kills a baby mythical creature that can see into your soul, oblivious that it was a twin baby which Newt managed to save. Tina (Katherine Waterston) is indisposed at the moment. And Dumbledore tries to convince his nephew-with the altered name Credence (Ezra Miller)-to change his heart. And that same good wizard has to get some things off his chest.

The reason why Mikkelsen now takes on the role of Grindlewald is because Warner Bros. asked Johnny Depp to resign from the series after the bad publicity from his libel case against News Group Newspapers Ltd. It’s an improvement, because of how deep he puts himself inside the villain. The first actor to play him was Colin Farrell and then Depp. In a way, it kind of reminded me of when Heath Ledger died, those two actors and even Law took over for him in other worlds in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” For those of you who would give independent films the BOTD in your blockbuster schedule, you might sense some nostalgia. Or you probably already did in the last film.

And it’s not just Mikkelsen whom we should praise. Redmayne and Fogler both have their flexibilities, Law, Sudol, and Miller all have their vulnerabilities, and both Williams and Turner have their support. And all of them are able to overcome the challenges and adventures without feeling labored. They’re actually committed to their parts, ands you’re able to see their hearts.

A goofy fun example in the movie is when Newt has to swivel with some crab-like creatures in order to free his brother, who was captured earlier in the film. But that’s not their biggest challenge in that sequence. Meanwhile, Newt’s creature friends-the green insect creature Bowtruckles and the niffler Teddy-both end up in a storage cage, but they manage to escape and bamboozle the guard.

Parts of “The Secrets of Dumbledore” look like echos from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “Princess Mononoke,” or even “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), if you really look at them up close. And I mean really, really look them up close. But mostly, you’re able to feel the “Harry Potter” nostalgia and fantasies as represented in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Granted, parts of this threequel aren’t understandable, but you still aren’t as bored as you were with “The Crimes of Grindlewald.”

Being another film to be delayed for both the virus and the recasting of Depp, this franchise blockbuster is much more appealing than the vampire Marvel film “Moribus,” which was a complete borefest with nothing original to offer. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” has elements we’ve seen done before, but they’re more lively, elaborate, and emotional on various levels. Oh, what the Hell am I saying? I had a fun time with this threequel and I suspect you will to.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Categories: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Sequel

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