FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
One of Dumbledore's secrets is hardly well-kept. He's gay. It was hinted at previously and became public knowledge well before the revelation at the beginning of this movie. His former lover? the villainous Gellert Grindelwald. Jude Law returns as the younger Dumbledore. His beard and his years still have a ways to catch up to the iconic Hogwarts mentor. Playing Grindelwald: Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen who replaced Johnny Depp. He got the call on a Friday and flew to London on Monday to jump in, and he's terrific.
But Grindelwald, the character, is not interested in playing nice. The wizarding word is in turmoil, He's risen through the ranks of politics and poses a greater threat since last time. So, Dumbledore draws on his team of faithful wizards and hatches a plan to stop him from taking full power. Among those friends, Eddie Redmayne, back as the quirky 'Newt.' He always has some darling creatures in tow, but the new one, perhaps the most mystical of all, also might be the most precious. I can see the plush merchandise now! Dumbledore also enlists a popular muggle from the last movie. Fan favorite 'Kowalski' gets his very own wand! And, yes, the object of Kowalski's infatuation, 'Queenie,' continues to melt his heart.
Author J.K. Rowling co-wrote the screenplay for "Dumbledore," and David Yates directed this, his seventh film in the Harry Potter franchise. I enjoyed it as I have the other "Beasts" movies. The special effects don't disappoint, and it retains its charm. But unlike the Potter movies, I felt like a bit of an outsider looking in, having not read the books. 'Guess I am just a muggle.
(Warner Bros. Rated PG-13. Running Time 2 hrs. 22 mins. In Theaters Only.)
A little story to share. When I used to travel to L.A., I would attend the same church as Mark Wahlberg. In talking about "Father Stu," he shared that the monsignor at that church, who I remembered well, told him the true story of Stuart Long and said Wahlberg should make a movie about him. Far be it from Mark to disappoint the good priest!
Wahlberg, himself, plays a priest in the movie, but it was a long journey for Stu to get there. He started out a boxer, then moved to Hollywood with dreams of acting. Eventually, after a motorcycle accident almost took his life, he found his calling. He ended his relationship with a Sunday School teacher and turned his life completely over to God, his faith soon tested by a progressive muscle disorder. Wahlberg gained 30 pounds in a matter of weeks to play the latter Stu. His devotion to the role, not unlike his personal faith. Playing Stu's alcoholic father, Mel Gibson (They previously starred as father & son in "Daddy's Home 2.) Jacki Weaver plays his mom. Both handle their supporting roles well.
Wahlberg says he wants to make more meaningful films these days. If you saw 2020's "Joe Bell," you know what he means, and "Father Stu" is certainly another step in that direction. Wahlberg believed in the story so much, he financed it himself. It's tough to say anything negative about such an earnest passion project. A vision Stu experiences at the time of his accident is a bit too literal, and things happen so quickly in the film, it's sometimes hard to believe. But it's true, it's real (even down to salty language), and second chances in life can be a beautiful thing!
(Sony Pictures. Rated R. Running Time 2 hrs. 4 mins. In Theaters Only.)