There’s not much fantastic about ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’

This 'Harry Potter' spin-off series feels more unessential than ever

Brad Keefe
'Secrets of Dumbledore'

I spent last week plugging the kind of movie of which I want to see more: the utterly delightful and fantastic “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I want more movies like this, and the way to get more movies like this is for people to go see it.

So, this week I will instead implore you to not go see a movie that’s kind of the epitome of movies of which we need fewer.

“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has proven in recent years that her legacy would have been better served taking notes from J.D. Salinger and perhaps retiring mysteriously from the public eye. When not posting transphobic takes that have made the generation that grew up with and loved the "Potter" books cringe, she’s also been at the helm of possibly the most ill-advised case of cashing in on intellectual property, her efforts potentially sullying any good will the Potter films still have.

I’ve lamented endlessly that books don’t necessarily make good movies because they are different beasts. Adapting a novel for the screen can be sticky business.

But Rowling has taken a playful spin-off book and decided to turn it into a film franchise that has only diluted any magic that was left in her World of Wizarding.

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“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is the third in a series that Rowling co-wrote directly for the screen, though I can’t imagine this would even make a good read.

Our nebbish protagonist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is back, dropped right into the middle of an adventure that I (and most of you) probably haven’t thought about since the last movie. Honestly, I’d recap the plot to this point, but would doing far more service to the audience than the movie does. It assumes you remember the characters and plot points of a series that has gone from intriguing to largely forgettable in just three movies.

For whatever wonder and magic the “Harry Potter” films established, this “Fantastic Beasts” is a remarkably gray affair

The most significant scenes bookend the two-hour-plus affair, pairing Jude Law’s Albus Dumbledore with dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, rather brilliantly replacing Johnny Depp). Mikkelsen’s performance is a highlight in a movie without many, one that makes you wish he’d been cast initially. 

Whatever character arcs Rowling is going for here, they just don’t land. Redmayne’s Scamander is separated from his love interest in the first two films, and I couldn’t manage to care other than the fact that Katherine Waterston would have at least been a welcome presence.

If you are a fan of this series and can manage to follow, more power to you. It drops a $200 million budget in the hands of director David Yates, who helmed the last half of the "Potter" films down the stretch.

If you see magic in it, well, I think you’re straining.  I see dollar signs. Go see “Everything Everywhere” for real magic.

“Fantastic Beast: The Secrets of Dumbledore”

Now playing in theaters

2 stars out of 5