Review: ‘Secrets of Dumbledore’ leaves much to be desired

Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Eddie Redmayne, Jessica Williams, and Callum Turner in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore / Warner Bros.

It turns out that we already knew one the secrets of Albus Dumbledore, which makes the newest movie in the Harry Potter Film Universe not only a misnomer of sorts but also superfluous.

That might be a bit harsh.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” isn’t a bad movie, but it is a fairly tepid one that carries very little excitement, at least compared to the overall series of Harry Potter films, and yes, even the two previous Fantastic Beast movies.

Evidently it just isn’t as fun watching adults running around and performing magic as it is kids and teenagers. Who would’ve thunk?

The coming-of-age aspect of the actual Harry Potter films, based on JK Rowlings’ novels, was just as key in our investment in the stories of the boy who lived and his best mates Hermione and Ron as all the wizardy, if not more so.

Rowlings, who co-wrote the screenplay with Steve Kloves, revealed in interviews following the publication of her series of novels that Dumbledore (Jude Law) was gay and had more than just a friendly relationship with fellow wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), who turned out to be a bit too Hitler-like for the future headmaster of Hogwarts’ tastes. Grindelwald is a muggle or human hater, you see.

Law and Mikkelsen play their roles well, but they just aren’t given enough to do.

In the film, that relationship is spoken of mainly in exposition, although there is a decent scene between the two actors at the start of the film that unfortunately is never fully paid off. Grindelwald is wicked, but he’s no Voldemort.

Grindelwald’s plot is to reanimate a dead magical beast that will pick him to be the leader of the magical realm over other more worthy magi in a ceremony on a mountain crest in Bhutan. Dumbledore and the rest of the cast’s task is to stop him.

There is another secret of Dumbledore involving Ezra Miller’s character Creedence that I won’t reveal, but it is probably where the title of the film comes from. However in the grand scheme, this revelation actually feels a bit tacked on and wouldn’t have hurt the main thrust of the story in the least if it had just been excised..

The best part of the movie and really the entire series of Fantastic Beasts movies is the muggle sidekick Jacob Kowalski, played affectionately and hilariously by Dan Fogler, whose goal is to save his beloved Queenie (Alison Sudol) from the evil sway of Grindelwald.

Eddie Redmayne returns as Newt Scamander, a wizard who has a special way with the magical beasts of the Potterverse, but he basically takes a backseat in his own movie series, and that may be the crux of the problem with the movie. Every character seems more like a sidekick rather than the hero.

The film itself looks great under the direction of David Yates, and the cast didn’t phone in their performances. The score by James Newton Howard fits the material and follows John Williams’ template well. The story, though, has little charm and is just a bit dry.

The Magical Beasts series was originally designed to be a five-film franchise, but there has been some reports of the series concluding with this movie. That might not be a bad idea. The well seems to be pretty dry after this third installment of the franchise.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 22 min.
Grade: C

  New in Local Theaters

Father Stu (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hr. 4 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 22 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle Hills, Bentonville Skylight

112 Drive In opens

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The 112 Drive In is open for what is likely its final season in its current configuration with double features showing Friday and Saturday evenings.

The playground is closed, but the concession stand is open. If you wish to bring your own snacks, a $10 fee will be levie when you purchase your ticket.

Admission is $10 for persons 13 and older and $5 for persons 6 to 12 years old. Children 5 and under are free.

Playing this weekend are “Sonic 2” at 8 p.m. and “The Lost City” at 10:15 p.m.

Easter on TCM

While Easter-themed films aren’t nearly as popular as Christmas movies, Turner Classic Movies has more than a few movies cued up for Easter Sunday that are related to the holiday.

Here’s a schedule if you are interested or want to set your DVR.

5:30 a.m. – The Greatest Story Every Told (1965)
11 a.m. – The Silver Chalice (1950)
1:30 p.m. – Barabbas (1962)
4 p.m. – The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)
7 p.m. – Easter Parade (1948)
9 p.m. – King of Kings (1961)

“Easter Parade” is a charmer with Judy Garland splendidly teaming with Fred Astair in a musical romance that’s as light as a feather and very entertaining. It’s probably my favorite of this group of films, although its lone tie to the holiday is the Irving Berlin title song, which actually debuted in the 1942 film “Holiday Inn.”

“Holiday Inn” starred Astair and Bing Crosby as show-business partners but romantic rivals, however, it is more closely aligned with the Christmas season because it also featured the debut of Crosby’s best-selling hit “White Christmas.”

However what’s interesting is that TCM bookends the Easter marathon with two big-budget films about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that were released just four years apart — “King of Kings” in 1961 and “The Greatest Story Every Told” in 1964.

Both films are long and rather ponderous.You could likely read any one of the four Gospels in the amount of time it takes to watch either movie. Both feature additions and deletions from scripture. It would be hard to say which one is more biblically accurate.

“King of Kings” features Jeffrey Hunter (“The Searchers”) as Jesus, while Max von Sydow (“The Exorcist”) stars as Christ in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

I slightly favor director/producer George Stevens’ “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” mainly for all the big-name Hollywood stars with roles or cameos. Stars like Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Shelly Winters, and Roddy McDowell populate the movie.

Director Nicholas Ray’s “King of Kings” has a more international flavor with its cast and benefits from narration by Orson Wells.

It’s a matter of taste whether you prefer Sydow or Hunter in the pivotal role of Jesus. Both performances are understated but solid.

Apple TV debuts Peanuts Earth Day special

Apple TV’s capture of the license to the catalogue of the Peanuts and Snoopy TV specials, movies, and series as well as the rights to produce new material caught many fans by surprise a few years ago.

The uproar from non-subscribers who feared missing out on the venerable holiday specials created a deal where PBS airs the three most popular Peanuts’ show “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” once during the respective holiday seasons, but Apple TV has the specials available 24/7.

Today Apple TV is debuting its second original Peanuts holiday special, “It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown,” which celebrates Earth Day, set for April 22.

The plot features “Charlie Brown and the gang having a game of baseball interrupted by Sally, who’s busy admiring a lone dandelion growing in the middle of the pitcher’s mound,. Much to Charlie’s chagrin, Sally won’t vacate the field, as she made a vow to protect the dandelion. This soon inspires the rest of the Peanuts to join Sally in guarding the plant while also helping make the Earth a better place,” according to Apple TV promotional material.

The first original Apple TV holiday Peanuts special, “Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne,” which featured Lucy, debuted last December and is also still available on the streamer as is a slew of other Peanuts material.

While I wouldn’t necessarily call it a classic, “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” from 1974 is also available on Apple TV. It’s not up to the standard of the best Peanuts holiday specials, but there is one funny gag about department stores having a wider variety of Christmas items available in the spring than Easter.