We are huge Harry Potter fans in this house. We’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter several times, have read the books, seen the movies, know what houses we’re in (one Gryffindor, one Hufflepuff, two Ravenclaws, and a Slytherin), have wands, drink Butterbeer.
So of course when the Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, came out, we had to go see it on opening night. While today is technically the premiere date, our theater had some early screenings last night, which is when we saw it.
Here’s what you should know before taking your kids (or just as a Harry Potter fan in general- as spoiler-free as I can make it).
Should I take my kids to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated PG-13. For the majority of the movie, I’d say the first 80%, I wondered why on earth it got that rating. Young kids would be in awe of all of the magical creatures. There’s a montage-like scene where we’re introduced to many of the creatures we had heard of in Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class and my 11 year old whispered in complete awe “Mom, J.K. Rowling is a GENIUS.” Some of them could be a little scary, but in general, just magical and awesome. There’s not much language to be concerned about (some wizard-type bad words like “Merlin’s beard”) but aside from one use of “anus” (and is that really a bad word? It’s actually a part of the body) that’s actually funny, nothing objectionable. And it’s surprisingly funny- not enough to say this is a comedy but there are quite a few laughs.
I thought maybe it was just because it’s not paced for young kids and that a lot of it would go over their heads and the rating was to imply that this wasn’t geared towards them, though there were a few moments that were a bit intense. But then came the last maybe 20% of the movie. The thing that they are looking for and trying to stop (I don’t want to name it just to help with the spoiler-free part of this review) gave us all the serious creeps. It’s very dark, much more like the last two movies of the Harry Potter series and there’s an child-related element to it that I found creepier than Voldemort.
All that said, I took my 11 year old (almost 12, he’d want me to tell you) and my 8 year old. I left my 10 year old at home because he’s the most sensitive of my three and while he’s a Harry Potter fan, he’s not as die-hard as his brothers. It was the right decision to leave him at home- it would have been a little overwhelming for him. He’ll watch it once it’s out on DVD, though. It was fine for my 11 year old. And really, my 8 year old loved it and I don’t regret my decision to take him (even though he was a little scared at parts- he wasn’t terrified) but he’s also read 5 of the 7 books and seen all of the movies more times than I can count.
My age recommendation for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them would be about 10+ with some wiggle room because you know your child best.
Does Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them live up to the Harry Potter name?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a prequel to the Harry Potter series, taking place 70 years before Harry Potter’s time. You actually do not need to have seen any of the Harry Potter movies in order to enjoy Fantastic Beasts. You’ll appreciate the “Easter egg” moments in Fantastic Beasts if you have seen them, though: the names that get brought up in passing, how you can tell what house Newt Scamander is in by his scarf, that you know his book will be required reading at Hogwarts someday, and of course, you’ll be more familiar with the wizarding world. But, you won’t be lost if you’ve never seen Harry Potter (it blows my mind that some of you might not have, you muggles… or no-majs as they are called in the US).
Due to my love of Harry Potter, it sort of pains me to say this, but if you put Fantastic Beasts up against Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I think Fantastic Beasts actually wins as the best first in a series movie(wow, that’s painful to say. I love you, Harry!). But, in Fantastic Beasts, we’re dealing with grown wizards. Their magic is more impressive and they aren’t shy about using it despite some no-maj backlash against wizards and that they are supposed to be in secret.
Unlike Harry Potter, where I knew the story(and so does any viewer shortly into the movie, as Hagrid quickly explains wizardry and then Voldemort), Fantastic Beasts had to build that for you and I think they did an amazing job, showing what wizards can do and the complicated relationship with muggles/no-majs, which is prominent in the movie because it’s taking place in the middle of New York City(a no-maj is actually one of the main characters- and he’s completely lovable). And of course, Fantastic Beasts has its own villain and in subsequent movies, that should become a key plot point.
Harry Potter fans, I don’t think you’ll be the least bit disappointed. And, if you’re a superfan, you’ll probably develop your own theories about how the characters in Fantastic Beasts could be related to the characters we know from Harry Potter (I’m dying to share some of my ideas- but again: I hate spoilers). Go see it and then we can talk!