'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore' Review
The magic is dead. At least the magic that comes from the Wizarding World. I wasn’t a fan of 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and enjoyed 2018 follow-up “The Crimes of Grindelwald” only a smidge more. This third installment in the “Harry Potter” prequel franchise, “The Secrets of Dumbledore”, is the least tolerable.
Problems begin early, with a dreary opening scene featuring Jude Law’s Dumbledore (who, as we all know, can’t die in these films) and bad guy Grindelwald. Mads Mikkelsen takes over that role from Johnny Depp and fails to make the villain sizzle. This weary conversation gets the movie off to a painfully slow start and the pace rarely picks up over the next 2 hours and 22 minutes.
In fact, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is one of the most methodical, calculated and stretched-out big-budget fantasy action films in recent memory. Each line of dialogue is delivered in a measured, deliberate fashion. Dramatic pauses abound. (“Dumbledore” has overtaken 2014’s “Foxcatcher” as the new champion in this category.)
The plot, in a nutshell, revolves around Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s checkered past, with the latter seeking total control of the wizard empire. The screenplay’s attempts at mirroring today’s political antics are as subtle as a sledgehammer to the skull. Writers J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves also shove-in plot recaps, character reunions, and a brief trip down Hogwarts lane.
Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander, the Doctor Dolittle of his time, has less to do here with his CG creature pals than in the previous installments. The effects are far from special, while human interactions with animated companions are awkward. Redmayne will want to quickly forget an extended crab dance sequence. Unfortunately, we can’t.
The initial goal for WB was three “Fantastic Beasts” films. Then, on the heels of the first film’s release, Rowling announced the saga would be expanded to five movies. Underwhelming box office results for “Dumbledore” could force the train to stop at three.
And maybe Rowling saw this coming. “Dumbledore” actually wraps-up most elements of the series in a nice bow. This feels like a finale. It’s one of the film’s few positives. If this is it, diehards will be pleased with the ending.
And I’ll be happy too — because it’ll mean I won’t have to endure another one.