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Rated 3.09 stars
by 55 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Special Effects Wizardry
by James Colt Harrison

Let’s get the gossip out of the way first. Originally Johnny Depp was hired to be in the film. As a major star, he had his usual “play or pay” contract. He got to the studio and filmed one scene. Apparently his “bad-boy” image caught up with him. He was asked to leave. No news as to why he was dumped. However, the dazzling Warner Bros. film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is not hurt by Depp’s absence. The real stars of the movie are the special effects wizards and the stunt people, as usual. How much more can these talented people imagine at their computers as they dream up ways to knock our eyes out?

It seems there is no end to human imagination and creativity. Hundreds and hundreds of people dream up all the madness on the screen. They pound away furiously at their computers and use green screens in ways the inventors never imagined. They rip their hair and bug their eyes trying to find new ways to scare us. And all this dreaming, imagining, and designing is simply for the audience’s benefit.

Dolby Atmos is used also in ways never thought of when the tinny, scratchy sounds of Al Jolson’s voice in the 1929 film The Jazz Singer startled audiences around the world. Today your seat vibrates, your ears are assaulted with barrages of invisible waves that rattle your inner regions. I was vibrating so much that all the fillings in my teeth fell out.

Plot confusions are rife in films such as these “wizard” movies, and this one is no exception. There are several sub-plots thrown in for no reason and that hardly move the story along. Handsome young actor Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone seems to have been abandoned as a youth by his father (Richard Coyle) and is all screwed up. Ezra unfortunately resembles Anjelica Huston in reverse drag. Or maybe it really was Anjelica Huston under that black fright wig and spooky hood.

So, the plot and subplots wander here and there and one gets confused. I was constantly dizzy from trying to figure it out. Anyway, the studio hired the excellent Jude Law to play Dumbledore and Oscar® winner Eddie Redmayne as bumbling Newt Scamander. Dumbledore has a wonderfully funny sidekick named Jacob Kowalski who runs a failed bakery. He’s played by funnyman actor Dan Fogler, a bright spot in a serious story. Young and handsome Cullum Turner plays Theseus Scamander, brother to Redmayne’s goofy professor part. On the ladies’ side, actress Alison Sudol plays the two-faced Queenie Goldstein who defects to Mikkelson’s side, only to abandon Kowalski. The beautiful Jessica Williams as Lally Hicks has one of the most lyrically-sounding voices in films.

International star Mads Mikkelson is the maniacal Gellert Grindewald, a possessed man who has dreams of taking over the world as a permanent dictator. The resemblance of an American politician who wants to be adored as an autocrat is scarily similar to Grindewald’s dastardly nature and is purely coincidental.

 Scenes shot in Bhutan are lovely and the mountain-top architecture is a spectacular setting for all the skullduggery and chases that are necessary to juice up the action. There are plenty of chase scenes, battles, electrical wand fights, flying monsters, explosions and shattering of entire cities to fill two or three more sequels.

Kids and teens will love all the mayhem, and mom and dad will be carted away to a rest sanitarium to calm their incoherent blathering after the last scenes are played.

(Released by Warner Bros. And rated “PG-13” for some fantasy action and violence.)

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