I'll preface this by saying that I'm a casual fan of the Harry Potter franchise. I've watched (and largely enjoyed) all of the movies and read three of the books but haven't thought about the Wizarding World (is that the correct term?) since the end credits rolled on the final movie.
That said, I struggled to engage with this movie on almost every level.
Other than Dan Foggler's character, I didn't enjoy spending time with any of the main cast. Eddie Redmayne's Newt is awkward and socially inept which could be endearing if the actor had an ounce of charisma and didn't spend every scene avoiding eye contact, biting his lip, and saying things like “I….um…...we…….um…….if only I could understand…..um…...humans as much as I do these fantastic beasts!” You know when you walk into a party and there's always that one guy that nobody wants to talk to, and so he stands awkwardly by the drinks table staring at his shoes whilst occasionally checking his phone to see if anybody has called him (spoiler: they haven't)? Imagine being handcuffed to him for ninety minutes and that's how I felt here.
The whole b-plot with Samantha Morton playing We Wish Kathy Bates Had Been Twenty Years Younger So We Could Have Cast Her Instead took far too long to get to a point.
Colin Farrell really needs to start doing alcohol and drugs again because he was a fun actor when he was smashed off his face. Here he just plodded around New York looking as po-faced as I did during the entire running time.
I'll give the movie some props for its special effects because there were some impressive sequences scattered around the movie, and the fantastic beasts had some great designs. I didn't really know what was happening during the CGI-laden final* but it sure looked good!
The humor felt really strained. I watched Pixels last night and laughed around the same number of times as I did here. (Hint: It's less than once.) Actually, there are a lot of comparisons between Pixels and Fantastic Beasts. A lack of emotional resonance, a feeling that a lot of what happens has no consequence, characters that are hard to care about, people getting eaten by CGI monsters, and a surprising cameo by Adam Sandler as an evil wizard. Okay, I'm joking about that last one.
If you enjoyed this movie, I envy you. For me, there was a definite absence of magic.
* This probably wasn't the movie's fault. At one point I started thinking about other movies set in New York with monsters, which caused me to start thinking about the first Ghostbusters movie and how it quickly introduced four characters I really liked and had a story where every scene built on top of one another rather than feeling like isolated sequences. Fantastic Beasts might have explained the final during this five minutes whilst my mind was elsewhere.