Considering this installment of the Wizarding World sub-franchise was written by “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, who scripted by previous Harry Potter movies, and directed by Harry Potter veteran David Yates – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is decidedly underwhelming.
Perhaps the fantasy/adventure was doomed from the get-go. Johnny Depp, who played villainous Gellert Grindelwald in the second installment, was just beginning his continuing domestic abuse battle with his ex-wife Amber Heard, forcing him to drop out. And J.K. Rowling has alienated many fans because of her virulent anti-trans statements.
This third Harry Potter prequel begins as genteel Albus Dumbledore (Jude law) admits he was once in love with with his ‘dear’ friend Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelson) as they meet for tea in a chic Berlin café in the 1930s.
Overtly racist Grindelwald loathes Muggles – a.k.a. ordinary people who don’t have magical powers. “With or without you, I’ll burn down their world, Albus,” he threatens, expressing his domineering disdain for anyone who isn’t pureblood. (Yes, this is Nazi Germany.) By his side is his henchman, Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller).
So Dumbledore seeks help from magi-zoologist Newt Scamander (always affable Eddie Redmayne), Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), along with Newt’s clumsy Muggle baker friend Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Hogwarts professor Eulalie Hicks (Jessica Williams), and French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylan), who infiltrates Grindelwald’s evil band of young fascists.
Complicating matters, there’s a magical baby deer, known as a Qilin, who can detect the purity of one’s soul; this fawn-like creature has been designated to select a new leader at the International Conference of Wizards. Plus numerous, utterly inconsequential, political subplots.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a dull, Dumble-snore 4 – two-and-a-half hours of murky tedium, making one want to beg the Potterverse to stop making these inferior spin-offs.