Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (U)



Family (2007)
94mins US

Starring: Zach Mills, Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman
Director: Zach Helm
Writer(s): Zach Helm
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Wacky and wildly eccentric Edward Magorium is 243-years-old and has run a magical toyshop for what seems like forever. However, the time has come for Edward to hand over the reins to a new owner and his one and only employee, Molly Mahoney, is the perfect candidate. Unfortunately, she is crippled with self-doubt and fears that she will not be up to the task. When accountant Henry Weston arrives one day to sift through the store's books, which are apparently two years out of date, Molly must discover the courage to protect the business from the bulldozers.

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LondonNet Film Review
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

At this time of year, it's easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas...

Natalie Portman in Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Icon FilmSo take a moment to reflect on the important message underlying all of the tinsel, baubles, chocolate advent calendars and chestnuts roasting on an open fire; a vital message which transcends religion, class, geography and language. If you don't buy your children the toys they want - even if this means taking out a second mortgage or selling your soul on eBay - they will resent you for the rest of the year. Disappoint the rosy-cheeked tykes in those formative years, crush their fragile dreams, and their adult lives will be blighted by therapy sessions, dysfunctional relationships and myriad insecurities.

Zach Mills and Natalie Portman in Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Icon FilmThank goodness then for Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), the eponymous 243-year-old proprietor of the most amazing toyshop in the world, who has spent every waking minute bringing magic back to the lives of his pint-sized customers. His small emporium, squeezed between two monolithic buildings, houses all manner of wondrous toys and thingummybobs to fire the imagination of the families who walk through his doors. Little tykes are encouraged to run amok through the building's various chambers as products literally come to life before your eyes. Holding firm to the notion that childhood is a time of imagination and boundless possibilities, Mr Magorium has tried to impress the importance of self-belief and wonder on his manager, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman).

Now the time has come for the wacky and wildly eccentric Magorium to hand over the reins to her. "I'm leaving," he announces one morning. "The store?" asks Molly. "The world," declares Magorium dramatically. Unfortunately, musical prodigy Molly is crippled with self-doubt and fears that she will not be up to the task: "You're magic and I'm not!" she whimpers. When an accountant called Henry (Jason Bateman) arrives to sift through the store's books, which are two years out of date and littered with unpaid bills, the future looks grim for the business. However, Magorium is confident that beautiful protegee will realise her potential. "Your life is an occasion," he tells her tenderly, "rise to it."

Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman in Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Icon FilmWritten and directed by Zach Helm, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium unfolds in the form of a storybook narrated by a lonely nine-year-old boy called Eric (Zach Mills). "This is one of my favourite stories of all time," he confides in voiceover at the beginning of the film, "even though it begins in a basement." Through his eyes, we witness Molly's gradual realisation that she can step into Magorium's well-worn shoes, even though that will meaning saying goodbye. "Are you dying?" she asks her boss tearfully, after he announces his impending retirement. "Light bulbs die, my sweet," he replies soothingly, "I will depart."

Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman in Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Icon FilmHoffman is instantly lovable as the wacky and wildly eccentric impresario who professes, "The only stroke I've ever had is one of genius." When he leaves the toyshop, the film loses some of its spark. Portman brings depth to her insecure young manager, with strong support from Mills as a desperately lonely boy who yearns for someone to be his friend. Closing scenes fall a little flat - keeping with the musical theme that filters through Molly's story, the film lacks an emotional crescendo. Production designer Therese DePrez creates a glorious, colour-saturated world where anything is possible, augmented with eye-popping special effects. If only such a haven truly existed, then more of us would be willing to hug our inner child.

- Kim Hu


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