It was inevitable that the enormously successful “Harry Potter” film series would continue even after Harry, Ron and Hermoine moved on from Hogwarts, and so it did with 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” This prequel, set decades before the events of the first “Potter” entry, was a flawed but intriguing creation scripted by J. K. Rowling.
For all its joys, however, the tone was pitch-black, the characters less involving than Harry and his friends, and the story rather unmemorable. That means a lot is riding on the new sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Sadly, the film is a dud -- the first real miss of the 10-film saga.
Bad reviews won’t keep little muggles away from cinemas. But perhaps it should, at least if they are younger than 10.
What’s the story? The second installment of the "Fantastic Beasts" series continues the adventures of magizoologist-author Newt Scamander (a likably awkward Eddie Redmayne). This time, he is sent by Hogwarts legend Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to help prevent murderous wizard Gellert Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) rise to power.
What’s the rating? The film is rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action, but this is an instance when that basic description does little to tell parents what’s to come. Within the first 15 minutes of “Crimes,” an infant is killed (off-screen), the first of two upsetting child deaths. There are some genuinely scary beasts (as well as some adorable ones), a brutal killing of a kindly older woman, a cadaverous Depp, and some strained references to some of the most horrific events of the World War II era.
What’s the ideal viewing age? This is a tough question. My 8-year-old has seen all nine previous “Potter” entries, albeit with some occasional skipping, especially in the two “Deathly Hollows” films. He enjoyed the original “Fantastic Beasts” -- for the most part. And he’s been anticipating “Crimes of Grindelwald” for months, thrilled by the knowledge that a young Dumbledore was entering the series. I saw it without him, and now face that old parental conundrum: to see, or not to see? My advice for parents is that age 10 is a good cutoff. If your child is younger (like mine), it is best to see “Crimes” first, and know the parts that could cause distress. Or, skip it in cinemas and wait for home viewing.
Is there anything else parents need to consider? Did I mention that “Grindelwald” is ridiculously dull? The film is slower than a disgruntled house-elf, bursting with exposition and lengthy sequences in which characters explain the plot in detail. That being said there are some moments of genuine magic, and the film saves a twist for its final scene. If you make it that far, there’s a good chance that this reveal will be enough to get you interested in part three. Just when you think you’re out, Rowling pulls you back in.