Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Title: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Describe This Movie In One Wizards Quote:

AVATAR: I'm glad you changed your last name, you son of a bitch!

Brief Plot Synopsis: "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a Muggle."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 Agent Ps out of 5.

Tagline: "The fate of one will change the future of all."

Better Tagline: "You can't spell 'Grindelwald' without 'grind.'"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Unmasked at the end of the last movie, the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been captured. But wait! He's escaped across the Atlantic, abetted by allies within MACUSA! Grindelwald is searching for Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), whose "Obscurus" apparently survived and will play a key role in his nefarious plans. Can Grindelwald's old, er, "friend" Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) help apprehend him? He cannot. What about that weird magizoologist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his friends, the Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Tina's sister Goldie (Alison Sudol), and Goldie's boyfriend, the non-magical Jacob (Dan Fogler)? Sure, maybe.

"Critical" Analysis: It's one thing to craft a story spanning several years, that encompasses multiple story arcs and involves the actions of dozens of characters. Such a tale would quite justifiably require several movies to tell. It is, however, another thing entirely to conjure (heh) a trilogy's worth of movies out of what was more or less an unnecessary appendix to the original text, resulting in a second installment in which almost nothing happens.

Which brings us to The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Say what you will about the first Fantastic Beasts, at least things *happened*. Potterverse fans can (and have) argue about spreading the action to the United States or adding significant Muggle (or, sigh, "No-Maj") characters, but director David Yates and screenwriter J.K. Rowling did introduce new faces and added some interesting twists to the mythology.

By comparison, The Crimes of Grindelwald spends the bulk of its two hour-plus running time following Newt, Grindelwald, and their respective companions as they fan out across Paris looking for Credence (no The Dude jokes, please), who's looking for his real mother. There's also some tortured intrigue involving the Ministry of Magic, who are peeved at Dumbledore for not agreeing to fight Grindelwald (he can't, for reasons that are eventually explained).

That isn't to say the film is wholly bereft of action; the doomed Nagini (Claudia Kim) turns into a snake a few times, and Credence turns into the Obscurus — which is sort of a cross between Venom and Looney Tunes' Tasmanian devil — once. The movie is book-ended by Grindelwald's fairly incoherent escape from New York ("Credence Barebone, I heard you were dead.") and the climactic battle beneath Père Lachaise Cemetery, but that leaves a whole lot of twitchy Redmayne and leering Depp to sit through.

And admittedly, Grindelwald's (stated) aims kind of make sense. You can't argue that regular humans have (and will, the movie's set in 1927) made a botch of things, and like Black Panther's Killmonger, you find yourself sympathizing. Like, Grindewald implies he'll prevent World War II (and, by extension, the Holocaust?) and the nuclear arms race, which is ... just ... what?

And Redmayne kind of grows on you. The Potterverse always lacked morally ambiguous characters. Granted, his eventual allegiances are hardly a mystery, which is another problem with movies based on kids' books: everything is black and white. And just like in the original Potter series, the respective Ministries of Magic consistently have their heads up their asses about real threats. They repeatedly go after Dumbledore for the lamest of reasons, they're rotten with traitors (MACUSA has at least one big one, as we learn), and their methodology is inconsistent: why go through the trouble of laboriously transporting Grindelwald back to England when you were perfectly willing to send hit squads to kill Credence?

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald exists solely as a place setter for whatever the third FB movie ends up being (Pickett Goes Bananas?). And while there are scattered gems to be found, you're not going to miss much if you sit this one out.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar