With the beginning of a new franchise, "Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them" brings the Wizarding World back to the moviegoing community. There are references to Harry Potter, but it's largely a new batch of characters casting spells and causing mischief, a group that isn't nearly as charismatic as the old crew.

About the film

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is the first action-adventure film of five from screenwriter J.K. Rowling, and the ninth installment in her Wizarding World. Directed by David Yates, the British-led film was released on November 18, 2016.

Newt Scamander stops in New York City on his way to Arizona in the 1920s and unleashes all hell on the city when his magical beasts escape due to a collision with a Non-Maj (or Muggle).

The two must work together with the help of demoted MACUSA official Tina and her sister to find all of the beasts. They must also unravel the mystery behind a magical being terrorizing the streets of New York City.

The literal magic is there, but not the chemistry

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in "Fantastic Beasts" lays with the acting. Eddie Redmayne is one of the best up-and-coming actors with credits in "The Danish Girl" and "The Theory of Everything," but watching him in this film feels awkward and unheroic -- he's clearly trying to be pigeonholed in the Harry Potter wizarding mold and can't cut it.

The rest of the characters mostly feel like bit players in a world too grandiose for them. The saving grace is Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, who was both charming and hilarious as the film's comic relief.

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The story is actually pretty fun, although "Fantastic Beasts" does seem to have some weird plotholes to make drama or goofs more impactful. Having a group of beasts traipsing around is a good way to obscure the insidious inklings behind this movie, although it would have been nice to get to know the beasts a little better and make them a greater focus in the film.

Instead, there was a really disturbing story of trying to destroy witches a la the Salem Witch Trials, while a mysterious wizarding terrorist has disappeared from the tabloids. These storylines seemed too dire for this film, which could've been more whimsical and charming with the beasts, but there was a desperate desire to set up sequels.

There's fun to be had at "Fantastic Beasts," but it falls squarely in line with the disappointment of most of the previous films to take place in the Wizarding World. Luckily, they'll have four chances to make it up to film fans.

Rating: B-