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Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zach Mills, Rebecca Northan, Kiele Sanchez and Ted Ludzik.

Screenplay by Zach Helms.

Directed by Zach Helms.

Distributed by Fox Walden. 94 minutes. Rated G.

A lot of people have been trying to humbug this charming little confection. Yes, it is lighter than air. And yes, it does pilfer more than a bit of its story and style from the works of Dr. Seuss and even more from Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." It's okay though – children's entertainment is kind of a big world and there is a place for a film which is as unassumingly clever, imaginative and charming as this.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium tells the story of a magic toy store which has somehow survived in its ramshackle old building for over a hundred years as the city has grown modern and cold around it – despite the fact that the employees appear to be more interested in the kids playing with the toys than buying them.

The Emporium is obviously at least loosely based on the main FAO Schwarz store in Midtown Manhattan, and it is run by the eccentric Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), the odd but sweetly sincere ringmaster of the place. Mr. Magorium has created a haven for children where the toys come alive and children can play without rules or limits.

Magorium has decided that it is time for him to leave the shop – for a reason that is both wonderfully whimsical and completely illogical. He wants to leave the store to his assistant Molly (Natalie Portman), a struggling musician who has no confidence in her musical abilities or her capability to run the store.

Two strangers are drawn into their world; Henry (Jason Bateman), a button-down and humorless accountant who is brought in to do the store's books but finds himself drawn to Molly and Eric (Zach Mills), a loner little boy who finally learns how to belong in the hallowed grounds of the place.

The most interesting character in the film is the store, though. The Emporium is alive with whizzing, spinning, running, bouncing, sputtering, roaring toys – a cacophony of color, motion and sound. Every nook and cranny of the place is populated by intrigue and whimsy.

None of it really makes much sense outside of the particular eccentric mindset of the film, however if you are willing to surrender logic and look at it with the eyes of a child, Mr. Magorium is sweet and appealing.

Perhaps I would question the decision to have a major character die. Then again, death is a big part of most great children's stories (Bambi, Ole Yeller, Hansel and Gretel – the list goes on and on. In its favor, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium does handle death with tact, matter-of-factness and a light touch which will be appreciated by parents of small, inquisitive children.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is definitely a flawed movie, but it's somehow lovable in its ramshackle imperfection – just like the store which inspires it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: November 19, 2007.


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