As the resident parent on staff here at CinemaBlend, I sometimes watch blockbusters with a different eye, and through a different lens. I have two boys, ages 12 and 8, waiting for my review back home -- sometimes because they are chomping at the bit to see something, and sometimes just because they're curious what kinds of movies are making their to theaters. Neither of my boys are super curious about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as they only made it through half of the Harry Potter series before bailing (I think Goblet of Fire is the last chapter they watched... I know). But your little witches and wizards might be begging you to see the new series from J.K. Rowling this weekend. Should you bring them?
There will be spoilers in this conversation! You have been warned.
I wrote a similar column aimed at parents a few weeks back when Marvel's Doctor Strange opened in theaters, and I find myself with a similar opinion as I think about Fantastic Beasts. While this is a standalone movie with its own important story, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them feels as much a part of the larger tapestry of pre-existing Harry Potter films as Doctor Strange feels attached to the MCU. Which means, if your kids have absorbed all eight Harry Potter films heading into Fantastic Beasts, they'll have absolutely no problem handling everything tossed at them by director David Yates' latest, fanciful adventure.
This isn't a Harry Potter sequel, but it's undoubtedly set in the same world, meaning magic and wizardry are the order of the day, and your kids are going to see magical and mesmerizing things in this movie they'll never see anywhere. That alone is worth the price of admission. There are two stories at play in the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the first one -- the one centered around Eddie Redmayne's eccentric magizoologist, Newt Scamander -- is then one that will enchant audiences of all ages.
Newt, if you didn't know, travels the globe researching and collecting fantastic beasts. He's writing a guide book on them, which will be used by the wizarding world, and he keeps the ones that he finds in his trusty brief case. Once in New York, however, a few of his beasts get out, leading to wonderfully choreographed and larger-than-life bits of mayhem and whimsy.
These scenes are the ones that won me over, wholeheartedly, and they are the reason I'd say take your curious kid to Fantastic Beasts, because the movie's inherent imagination is something that needs to be appreciated and celebrated while it's on the big screen. At one point, late in the movie, the resident No-Maj -- a human non-wizard with no magical powers -- states to Newt during a particularly imaginative sequence, "I don't think I'm dreaming. I ain't got the brains to make this up." Most of us sitting in the audience don't. But J.K. Rowling does, and David Yates does, too. And when they collaborate on visually immersive stories of wizardry, it's worth your time and attention, no matter your age.
That's not to say that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a kid-friendly cartoon that's acceptable for anyone. It's not. Yet here, again, I'll reference back to the Harry Potter series, which usually laced a darker subplot through its magical and wondrous adventures. Beasts does the same. There's a dark magic subplot in Fantastic Beasts that tiptoes into troubling areas. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers.) There's a dark wizard who surfaces in the final act, though the battles in the movie mirror a lot of what happens in the Harry Potter films.
And there's a death. It's sudden, and it's quick, but it's a little bit brutal. In conversations around our offices, we've compared it to the on-screen death of Cedric Diggory in The Goblet of Fire... the difference being, the character who dies on screen here has no real emotional connection to Newt or the new characters in this movie (so I'd argue it's not nearly as gut-wrenching as Cedric's demise was).
But even with the moments of dread that are few and far between in Fantastic Beasts, I think the overall sense of awe and wonder that accompanies so much of Newt Scamander's journey through this film far outweighs any questionable sequences. There's great physical comedy in the movie. There are incredible creatures brought to life by top-of-the-line special effects. There's real magic on screen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I think you should let any kid aged 9 and up discover this movie. Younger, even, IF they have watched a handful of the Potter films.
Have other questions about this film (or others in theaters)? Hit me up in the comments, or email me at [email protected]. I'll help where I can.