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Did ‘Fantastic Beasts’ cast spell on ‘Potter’ fans?

Dori Tarakan, of Roslyn, and Lisa Yeung-Ng, of

Dori Tarakan, of Roslyn, and Lisa Yeung-Ng, of Douglaston, channel their inner wizards at a magical table set up at a showing of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" on Nov. 17, 2016 at the Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington. Credit: Beth Whitehouse

“Harry Potter” fans headed to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — which officially opens nationwide Friday — should know this, according to those who saw the film at a sneak preview on Thursday night: It’s not very much like the “Harry Potter” series.

Yes, there are wands and a cameo by a house elf and even a nod to Albus Dumbledore. “And the concept of the wizarding world, obviously,” said fan Zach Hay, 13, an eighth-grader from Sands Point. But beyond that, the new film with a screenplay by J.K. Rowling is really its own beast, so to speak. It introduces new characters — no Harry or dare-we-say Voldemort.

There is one major similarity to the “Potter” series, however — a battle between the forces of good and evil.

The new flick takes viewers back to 1926, when Newt Scamander arrives in New York City with a magical briefcase filled with colorful creatures he has collected from around the world. Scamander is connected to the “Potter” universe because he writes a book about the beasts that in the future will be used at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And the originality of each beast in the new movie would make Hagrid — the Hogwarts’ gamekeeper — salivate.

Dori Tarakan, 29, of Roslyn, who is a self-described “Harry Potter” nerd — said she was so eager to see the new movie that she volunteered to dress as a witch and work with Lisa Yeung-Ng, 36, of Douglaston, at an advance party and screening of the film on Thursday night at Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington, where MomTime Events threw a party for teenagers before the showing. Tarakan and Yeung-Ng were staffing a magical table set up by Sylvan Learning Centers.

“It doesn’t have the usual cast, so I don’t know what to expect,” Yeung-Ng said before the show. “I’m a little worried it won’t be as good as the other ones.”

And judging from the reaction of fans interviewed after the movie, it wasn’t exactly the level of a “Harry Potter” original.

“I thought it was pretty good,” said Rajen Parekh, 13, of Sands Point. “I thought the plot was a little disconnected in the first two-thirds.”

Hay agreed. “The first half of the movie was kind of confusing because they were juggling two plots at the same time,” he said. But without giving up any spoilers, “there were parts where there were well-placed jump-scares,” he said.

Tarakan liked the creatures best. “Some of them reminded me of my dogs. We have a French bulldog who makes really strange noises,” she said. “We also have a Newfoundland who is enormous.”

Tarakan said she’s not sure whether “Beasts” will have the same incredible appeal as the “Harry Potter” movies did. “It might just because it’s the same author, but I don’t think it’s going to be as popular. It was very different. If you take it for what it is, it’s a good movie. It’s just hard to follow such an amazing series of books and movies.”


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