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Movie Review

New York's fine. Just. Fine.

Sure, magizoologist Newt Scamander was ever-so-slightly involved in a teensy-weensy incident that … well, destroyed much of the Big Apple and almost brought magical and non-magical worlds into cataclysmic conflict.

But that's nothing a little more magic and a lot of wiped memories can't fix, is it? He was the story's hero, quite frankly. Hard to understand why in 1927—a full year later, for pity's sake—Britain's magical authorities still won't allow him to travel.

It's not as if the authorities blame Newt for everything that happened in New York. After all, the real culprits are well-known to the wizarding world. Unfortunately, they're a little hard to pin down at the moment.

Credence Barebone—the super-strong and fairly unstable young wizard at the center of the incident—was thought by most to have been one of its casualties. But you can't keep a good Obscurial down for long. He's in Paris now and back in tip-top shape, working in a sketchy sideshow and cavorting with a comely young woman named Nagini. (Best gather ye rosebuds now, youngsters; the lady has a distinctly reptilian future in store for her.)

And then there's Gellert Grindelwald, a wizard of staggering power and fearsome reputation. He doesn't want much, really: just to rule the world and subject non-magical types to eternal servitude. And while Grindelwald was captured and jailed after the whole American kerfuffle, he's recently escaped. Now he's free to tinker again with his super-villainy plans, recruit new minions to his side and—most especially—pull the headstrong Credence back into his own dark embrace.

But hey, everyone seems to be after Credence these days: Britain's Ministry of Magic wants to capture or kill him (depending on who you ask). A mysterious fellow named Yusef has an interest in tracking him down, too. Even a young Albus Dumbledore would like a hand in the action: Unable to move against Grindelwald himself, Dumbledore asks Newt if he'd be interested in helping him out.

Newt's not so sure. Remember, he can't legally leave England. And Paris, last we checked, is located outside the country.

But when Newt learns that his beloved Tina is in Paris, too, well, that clinches it: He leaves instructions for his assistant, Bunty, to care for his basement full o' beasts, picks up his magical suitcase filled with other monsters and heads for the City of Light with his muggle pal, Jacob—by way of bucket, of course, which apparently is the best way to travel incognito.

Surely, this trip abroad will be much safer than the last one.

Right?

Positive Elements

When Dumbledore asks for Newt's help, he says that he appreciates the fact that Newt never does anything out of pride or selfish reasons. "You simply ask, Is a thing right? no matter the cost," Dumbledore says.

Indeed, Newt is quite the goofy idealist—a caring soul with a fully engaged moral compass. That sometimes puts him in conflict with authority: The various ministries of magic we see here can at times feel petty, mean and short-sighted. Thus, Newt's relationship with his Auror brother, Theseus (who hunts down dark wizards for the ministry), is tense at times.

"The time is coming when everyone—everyone—is going to have to pick a side," Theseus says. "Even you."

"I don't do sides," Newt tells him.

But whatever quibbles Newt may have with the ministry, it's obvious that he and it—and Dumbledore, too, for that matter—have the same basic goals in mind: To keep the wizarding world from tumbling into the dark place that the Hitler-like Grindelwald might have in mind.

This tale, like pretty much all Harry Potter stories, pits good against evil. It values diversity and equality and champions the underdog. It understands that sometimes those values have to be fought for at great personal risk. And plenty of folks here are willing to sacrifice their lives for this worthwhile cause, even if some (like Newt, especially) occasionally skirt the letter of the law to uphold the spirit of the law.

Spiritual Content

Surprise! Magic's sort of a big deal here. You've likely heard us say this before, but as a refresher: The magic in Harry Potter springs from nature, not from more infernal realms. People are either born with the ability or not. And that magic—channeled through wands and words—can do everything from patching up a broken vase to controlling the weather to conjuring up fearsome, dragon-shaped infernos capable of devouring whole cities.

We also see some rather incidental religious imagery: Newt and Dumbledore meet at the top of London's St. Paul Cathedral, for instance (Newt asks if all the less-conspicuous rooftops were taken). And a massive melee in a Parisian cemetery features cross-shaped tombstones and a Christian chapel in the background.

Sexual Content

Several years ago, Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them author J.K. Rowling said that she had always imagined Dumbledore as being gay. The Crimes of Grindelwald gives us the first on-screen indication of Dumbledore's orientation, though it's subtle enough that younger viewers would likely think nothing of it.

As Dumbledore looks at some images of himself and Grindelwald from the past, someone remarks that the two of them were once as close as brothers. "We were closer than brothers," Dumbledore says wistfully, looking at an old picture of the two teens staring at each other. A flashback also pictures the two young wizards slicing open their hands to make an unbreakable, magical blood pact; we see the two press their hands together and entwine their fingers.

Jacob and his significant other, Queenie, visit Newt early in the movie. Newt discerns that Queenie has cast a love spell on Jacob to get him to marry her—which is illegal according to current ministry of magic rules. (A clearly twitterpaited Jacob kisses and caresses Queenie repeatedly, and it seems as though Newt walks in on them when they're engaged what might be a compromising position.)

Newt's brother, Theseus, is engaged to a woman named Leta Lestrange. But a gossipy newspaper publishes an erroneous announcement indicating that Newt will be the happy groom-to-be. In truth, Newt only has eyes for Tina—whose own eyes are described (by Newt, of course) as looking like those of a salamander (a good thing).

A magical statue, which serves as a door to Paris' magical downtown, is that of a topless woman. A couple of female characters wear garb that shows some cleavage. We hear about an unloving husband. Newt's female assistant, Bunty, suggests rather hopefully that Newt should take off his shirt before diving into some water.

Violent Content

Generally speaking, wizards don’t kill folks via magic—unless, of course, they're dark wizards, in which case all bets are off. Grindelwald and his cronies kill plenty, in fact: Some of his victims (including a baby) are simply murdered by a wave of the wand and a flash of green. (Most of these attacks take place just out of camera range.) Other victims are consumed in an inferno of blue fire, turning into clouds of ash (though they're obviously in significant pain before being fully vaporized). He also chucks his strange lizard familiar out a window, declaring that the creature's just too needy.

Credence's peculiar power (generated by an Obscurus) completely destroys a Parisian apartment, though the subject of Credence's rage is protected via a magic shield. We see an ocean liner sink, and several people are shown floating (and presumably drowning later) in the water. Newt and one of his beasts battle a group of magical cats. A few people are trapped in a water-filled carriage. We see corpses.

Jacob shakes hands with a very, very old man a couple of times, and we hear the old man's bones crack (and see him wince in pain) whenever he does so. A small-but-nasty tentacled creature is plucked from someone's eye with a pair of tweezers. We hear about some tragic deaths, and how surviving relatives feel guilty about the roles they may have played in those untimely demises.

We also see a foreshadowing of the coming World War II, including a mushroom cloud. Credence sabotages a Parisian sideshow, sending several magical creatures out into the streets and causing a huge amount of panic (and some destruction).

Crude or Profane Language

Say what you want about magicians: Their language is incredibly clean. Two uses of the word "h---" (both uttered by non-mage Jacob) and one utterance of "jeez" is all we ever hear.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Characters quaff what may be wine. A baby niffler (a magical creature with an innate attraction to shiny stuff) uncorks a champagne bottle—sending himself and the cork flying and the champagne spilling.

Other Negative Elements

In his pursuit of a greater good, Newt and others technically break some rules here and there. We hear references to magical purity and the inherent superiority of mage-kind, but all from the bad guys—which gives such talk a Nazi-like "master race" kind of vibe.

Conclusion

J.K. Rowling's wizarding world has given many Christians, and especially Christian parents, fits ever since Harry Potter first took stock of the Sorcerer's Stone.

Some were aghast at turning witches and wizards into charming, prepubescent heroes. Others bemoaned how laughably terrible Harry Potter's adoptive Muggle parents were. They worried that the book reflected badly on adoptive parents in general and encouraged rebellion in the real world.

But others looked at the wider themes in Rowling's books—self-sacrifice; discipline; the importance of doing the right thing and fighting evil, regardless of cost—and embraced them. Many Christians found echoes of Christianity in Rowling's fantasy novels, especially in the last one (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Those echoes, Rowling later revealed, were wholly intentional.

"To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious," Rowling said in 2007. "But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going."

Eleven years and a new series later, Christians are still conflicted. And if we can offer any consolation in this space, it's this: This new franchise will, like a cinematic sorting hat, likely sift its own audience.

Here's what I mean: The Crimes of Grindelwald is catnip for Potterphiles and totally incomprehensible for newcomers. Those who've shunned Potter and Fantastic Beasts won't find much to draw them in here. It'll feel confusing and chaotic. And some of the film's more difficult elements—Dumbledore's subtly suggested sexual leanings, the magic, the grim setting and the sometimes perilous battles—will be additional reasons not to make this the film to break the sorcerer's seal.

But those who've accepted and embraced this series of series will likely find much to appreciate here: They'll be transported to a familiar-yet-always-changing world, filled with showy magic, resonant messages and yes, a few new fantastic beasts.

It's not quite as dark as the first Fantastic Beasts movie. But the stakes the second time around are still plenty high, the action still pretty intense. Dumbledore's sexual preference is suggested, not baldly stated. And the movie's language, with a couple of exceptions, is as clean as a wizarding whistle.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is not for everyone. Is it for you and your family? You probably know the answer already.

For help with encouraging your kids to be a hero in the adventure God calls them to, check out these Focus on the Family resources:

Teaching Kids About Spiritual Warfare

The Super Power of Real Heroes

Why Teens Are Attracted to Wicca and the Occult

Exploring the Great Bible Mysteries: A Devotional Adventure

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander; Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein; Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski; Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein; Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone; Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange; Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander; Claudia Kim as Nagini; William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama; Kevin Guthrie as Abernathy; Jude Law as Albus Dumbldore; Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald

Director

David Yates ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 16, 2018

On Video

March 12, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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