Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Rated G; Directed by Zach Helm; Starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zach Mills
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of those movies that aims to leave you smiling. It works hard to achieve this goal and often succeeds, but as a total movie experience it doesn’t gel into an enchanting experience even with the inclusion of a magical toy store. And cynical me wants to know how come I never stumble across magical toy stores?
The magical toy store is run by 243-year old Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman). Magorium is a kind-hearted charmer who loves to see children enjoying his store. Molly Mahoney, played by Natalie Portman in full pixie mode, is his assistant. Molly, once a child prodigy, is now having a crisis of confidence and despairs of ever finishing her concerto. A regular visitor to the store, Eric (Zach Mills), also has a crisis – he’s unable to make friends with kids his own age, but when a kid can make a life-sized sculpture of Abraham Lincoln out of Lincoln logs what can you expect?
Entering into the magical place is accountant Henry Weston (Jason Bateman), hired by Magorium to put the store accounts in order. After living long enough to wear out his favorite shoes Mr. Magorium has decided that it is time to head to the big toy store in the sky…also less euphemistically known as…die. Molly and the store don’t handle the news well.
A movie that tries to play it sweet and whimsical has a few strikes against it at the start. One person’s sweet is another’s treacle. It’s also hard showing whimsy without crossing the line into irritating. The movie sometimes slips into treacly irritation, but does a good job of keeping those moments to a minimum. The worst thing about this film isn’t the concept, or Dustin Hoffman’s lisp, or making Portman and Bateman look bland, it’s that the movie blows it in the last section. It seems as if the plot had a final scene it had to get to and didn’t care to give us other scenes to get us there.
With a good cast and some charming moments, the movie can’t live up to that sense of wonder it tries for. It’s not a bad movie and there are some sweet and whimsical moments that do make you smile. It even tamed the cynic in me, though I still wonder why I can’t find a magical store like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.