Freeze Frame: “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (PG-13), “Father Stu” (R)

The Harry Potter prequels have all the superior production values that fans have come to expect from this popular franchise. And while better than the previous episode, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is still saddled with a somewhat clunky, meandering storyline. Jude Law returns as Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore, but Mads Mikkelsen replaces Johnny Depp as the evil Grindelwald, a dark wizard bent on taking over the wizarding world and eliminating humanity. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander attempts to prevent this disaster by aiding Dumbledore’s quest to stop Grindelwald’s nefarious plot. There’s more heart in this episode and some moments that resonate, but this overlong tale never captures the allure of the original Harry Potter series. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is adequate entertainment but lacks the magic of a well-told story.


Mark Wahlberg gives a sincere if routine performance in “Father Stu,” the true story of a washed-up boxer who evolves from an agnostic to a dedicated Catholic priest. Stuart Long, as portrayed by Wahlberg, was a naïvely self-confident Montana man who moved to Hollywood to become a movie star after his boxing career was derailed by injuries. After falling in love with a Catholic girl, he converts…only to discover that his newfound faith sent him in another direction. Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver are fine as Long’s parents, neither of whom could believe that his conversion was the real deal. Long’s journey is filled with obstacles that should have made him an ideal subject for a cinematic biopic. Unfortunately, the movie’s conventional approach prevents this inspirational story from becoming a truly inspirational film.

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