Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them begins with the classic Harry Potter background score as the Warner Brothers logo brightens up the screen. And that's the maximum of Potter you would get in this movie.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is our hero and we stick to the young English wizard, who would go to any lengths to protect the magical creatures we have been familiarized through J.K. Rowling's book of the same name.
Breaking away from the phenomenal Potter frenzy is no mean task and probably to ensure that, novelist-turned-screenplay-writer Rowling chose to create her magical world away from the British Isles. And going by GB Shaw's oft-repeated statement that these two countries are separated by the same language, non-magical people are called no-majs and not muggles in the US of A.
Point noted and we walk along the streets of New York as Newt explores the city, with a seemingly normal suitcase that in fact is home to hordes of rare magical creatures.
But all is not well in New York City - what with buildings being brought down and streets rugged right in the middle by an unseen power, baffling both the magical and non-magical leaders. And as luck would have it, some of the rare magical creatures do manage to leap out of the security of Newt's suitcase.
Newt is blamed and he, along with his new-found American friend Tina Goldstein (played by Katherine Waterston), an expelled member of ministry of magic, have to set things right even while saving their necks. They are helped along by a very-much likeable no-maj - Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).
School homework and detentions don't matter anymore, it's the adult world of back-stabbing and neck-wringing politics.
And we have a Madam President to lead the magical community of the USA in the early 1900s. Something that the Americans of the 21st century failed to replicate.
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein (Tina's sister) brings in the 'oomph' factor into the film. Queenie and Jacob strike up an amazing, but unlikely chemistry that would leave you in splits at times, while tugs at your heartstrings in others.
Colin Farrell as ministry official Graves brings out the dark side of wizarding world, as he tries to thwart Newt's attempts to save both beasts and beings.
And it's not just the people (whether magical or not) who impress, the long-snouted niffler that escapes from the case is fun to watch as it skillfully pockets anything that gleams and shines.
The animation department of the movie should get a standing ovation for visualizing Rowling's words and breathing life into the creatures on-screen.
And take a bow, Eddie Redmayne for filling in a space ruled by Daniel Radcliffe, who has become the face of Harry Potter. The earnest eyes of Newt Scamander fill in when Rowling chooses to pause.
We have seen buildings tumble down in countless superhuman movies, but did any of them care to restore the city? Rowling thought of it and put her wizards on to the job. That thought and her magical imagination are the real strengths of the movie.
The movie should work for you, even if you haven't kept yourself abreast with the Harry Potter series in the book or movie formats. But some explanation on certain key characters could have helped.
Director David Yates, who has previously directed the last four of the HP series, takes you on a roller-coaster ride with suspense, comedy and adventure thrown in here and there. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them works almost-like magic, riding high on Eddie Redmayne's acting skills and the impeccable story-telling caliber of Rowling.
Climb on the whirlwind of fantasy and wait for the magic to unravel.
Onmanorama rating: 3.5/5