Happily, Warner Brothers and the filmmakers behind Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore have openly flouted ‘Don’t Say Gay’ absurdities with the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Right out of the gate, Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gridelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) talk about the love and devotion they once had for each other. No one is hit over the head with it. It was part of the life they once shared. That’s just one of some very adult, and often understated qualities to appreciate in the new film. Is it on par with the Harry Potter series? No. It can’t possibly offer the parade of iconic British thespians or capture the coming-of-age pains that those films do, not least because, as many of us were made aware during the Back to Hogwarts special, iconic British thespians have been dropping like flies. Also, from the onset, Fantastic Beasts has been more a series for grownups, which makes sense. Kids who read the first Harry Potter book in 1997 are at least 26 years old now. Let’s just say in all fairness comparing Fantastic Beasts to Harry Potter is a fool’s game.

That being said, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has the same gorgeous production design, thanks to Stuart Craig, and costuming, courtesy of Colleen Atwood. My husband, a film aficionado who rarely mentions costumes, brought them up repeatedly during our screening, so kudos, Colleen! Craig is largely responsible for maintaining a consistent visual tone for all the Harry Potter films, and he works his visual magic again in Secrets of Dumbledore. The world building is impressive, and he differentiates yet builds a believable bridge between pre-WW2 Europe and the wizard world of the same era.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore takes place in 1932, and centers around a mission given by Dumbledore to his most loyal and skilled witch and wizard friends to stop Grindelwald from starting a war involving both the wizarding and muggle worlds. He puts the most trust in Newt, who, along with his very erudite, suave, and James Bond-esque brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and American badass witch and charms professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), enlist the help of lovelorn muggle baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Much of the rest of the plot is a bit of a muddle, and much of the whys and wherefores are unclear. Thank goddess for fascinating characters, or the audience would actually notice there are more plot holes in this movie than there are mirrors in Gideroy Lockhart’s house.

To read the complete review, go to AWFJ.org HERE.