By Michael O’Sullivan

The Washington Post

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald”

134 minutes

Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action

“Bunty, the baby nifflers are loose again.”

And with that, the hero of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” signals to his housekeeper that this new chapter in the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, as mumbly and bumbly as ever) will have at least one antic chase scene featuring CGI critters.

Nifflers, which resemble platypuses, are the ewoks of the 21st century. Keep your eyes on them, though, and not just because they’re cute. One of them plays a significant role.

But this Harry Potter prequel takes a turn for the dark side that will satisfy the franchise’s adult fans even more. As the film opens, in a bravura, wham-bam prologue that combines action with shivery terror, the title character, an evil wizard played by Johnny Depp, is seen escaping from detention while being transferred from a New York prison to face punishment for unspecified crimes in Europe.

Once Grindelwald lands in Paris, Newt — a glorified dogcatcher, clearly out of his league — is dispatched to go after the fugitive wizard by his former Hogwarts teacher, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). Why doesn’t Dumbledore, one of the most powerful wizards who ever lived, go after Grindelwald himself? Ahh, you’ll just have to wait to find out.

Newt is aided in this mission by sidekicks returning from the 2016 “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”: baker Jacob Kowalski and magical sisters Queenie and Porpentina — known as Tina — Goldstein (Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston). The film’s other key character, also returning from the previous film, is a young man named Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller).

The “Grindelwald” story, set in 1927, may be all about nifflers and wizards, but it’s also very much a parable of the world today. Grindelwald is a demagogue. He holds rallies. He incites his followers to violence by demonizing the other.

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