Five years after the epic eight-part "Harry Potter" series came to its affecting conclusion, author J.K. Rowling has returned (this time as screenwriter) to the world of witchcraft and wizardry with prequel spin-off "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." Loosely inspired by her creature-filled textbook of the same name, this opening chapter of a planned cinematic quintet tonally reminds of 2001's inaugural "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," before the boy wizard's battle against the evil Lord Voldemort threatened to destroy him and everyone he held dear. Even as Rowling and director David Yates (who previously helmed 2007's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," 2009's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," 2010's "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows Part 1," and 2011's "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows Part 2") craft a magic-tinged parable on prejudice and oppression, the film is so airy and light-hearted it verges on inconsequential. That is not to suggest it isn't enjoyable, though, because it is.
The year is 1926 when former Hogwarts student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives by boat to New York City with nothing more than a suitcase filled with fantastic beasts in his possession. When his attaché is unsuspectingly swapped with that of aspiring bakery owner Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), it sets into motion a potential disaster as the creatures inside are accidentally unleashed upon Manhattan. Aided by new ally Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an investigator working for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), Newt sets off to retrieve the runaway mystical animals. At a time when tensions are on high for Majes to keep their abilities private, these supernatural disturbances around the city risk wizarding exposure from the No-Maj population. Complicating matters is an even graver threat in the form of an obscurus—a dark, deadly force inadvertently brought about by a Maj's attempts to suppress their abilities.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review