Yes, we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, even though it is rated PG-13. Ed and I don’t let Lily and Emmy watch PG-13 rated movies, but we made an exception with Star Wars last Christmas, and made another exception this weekend (perhaps because I really wanted to see this movie myself). What did I think? Well, it’s a mixed bag.
First of all, I didn’t realize that this movie isn’t adapted from a book. J.K. Rowling wrote the 41 page Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them for a charity, and it is a “textbook” that Harry Potter used at Hogwarts. As I was reading an article on USA Today about the movie, I realized that yes, I am your parent that has this book in the basement, as a caption of a photo explains. I bought it, along with Quidditch Through the Ages, from Scholastic Book Club when I was teaching second grade many years ago. While I was a avid Harry Potter reader and read all the books as they were published, I didn’t have any interest in reading these little side books. The actual story of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is only available as a screenplay and is not a novel.
Since I read the Harry Potter books so long ago and have only seen the first three movies (Lily wants to read each book before seeing them), I am happy to report that you do not have to read the Harry Potter books to understand what is happening in this movie. The Harry Potter references are there but not critical. Lily reports that the spells were familiar and Dumbledore is mentioned once. Grindelwald is an important name in the movie; unfortunately I didn’t remember who he was since he has a minor role in the books, but it didn’t spoil my understanding of what was happening.
So, should you take your kids to see this movie? The beasts themselves actually were fantastic, and it was fun to watch them all interact with the main character, Newt. Some beasts escape from Newt’s magical suitcase, and Newt needs to recapture them. That alone would have been enough of a plot for me, but there was also a much darker plot woven into the script. The story line included fantasy violence and death which I was uncomfortable with, and frankly, was unnecessary. The ending was very ominous and would also be hard for younger children to understand. I think my 9 and 12 year old girls were okay with it, but I’m glad they aren’t younger.
The characters in this movie, however, were an absolute delight. I enjoyed “getting to know” the four main characters: Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob Kowalski. Katherine Waterston, the actor that played Tina, reminded me so much of Maura Tierney, especially when she had a little mustard on her lip from eating a hot dog! However, I couldn’t find any connection between them, except for an adorable picture of Maura Tierney attending the movie’s premiere. It must have been just my imagination.
Overall, it was a fun movie, but if you are hesitant to take your kids to see it, I would recommend either seeing it yourself first or waiting until it comes out on DVD. If you have seen it, what did you think about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?