Review: Mr. Magorium Wonder Emporium
Plot: Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is the 243 year old owner of the Wonder Emporium, a magical toy store. Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) is his shy and insecure store manager. When Magorium decides to bequeath his toy store to Molly, the emporium begins to lose its magic and degrade. Will Molly, with the help a lonely young boy named Eric (Zach Mills), and a buttoned down accountant named Henry (Jason Bateman), be able to restore magic to the Wonder Emporium before its too late?
Review: I dont do whimsy. Im just a tad too cynical to be caught up in a film like MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM, a film that is obviously trying hard to emulate the recent adaptation of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Alas, first time director Zach Helm is no Tim Burton. The only film that comes to mind while watching this ludicrous fiasco is the infamous Robin Williams flop, Toys.
To be fair, writer/ director Helm is not without talent. His previous claim to fame was the acclaimed screenplay for STRANGER THAN FICTION, which attempted a similar whimsical vibe, and was at least moderately successful- thanks in no small part to the efforts of leading man Will Ferrell, and director Marc Forster. With that film, Forster managed to keep Helms flights of fancy grounded somewhat- but left to his own devices Helm goes wildly over the top, resulting in a film that I am sure will end up as one of the larger flops of the year.
The trouble starts with the opening credits, which are imaginative. Too imaginative in fact, as theyre probably the best part of the film. Probably the biggest problem with the film is Dustin Hoffmans scenery chewing performance as Magorium. Hoffmans been on a losing streak for about a decade, and the once nuanced actor that gave some of the best performances of the sixties, seventies and eighties, has given way to a ham. Hoffman plays the role like hes Pee Wee Hermans long lost grandfather, with his wacky hair and annoying manner of speech. If I ever ran into someone like Magorium, Id have him committed, and I certainly wouldnt want him playing with my children- like he does in the film.
This brings me to my next problem with the film- the script is extremely naïve, even for a fantasy. At one point in the film, the child protagonist Eric, whos having trouble making friends, brings home Henry, the buttoned down accountant, to play dress up in his room. Erics mother finds him, and rather than call the cops upon finding some strange man alone in a room with her child, she finds the whole situation rather amusing. Riiiiiiiight.
That said, the film is not without its good points. The production design of the film is quite beautiful, and the acting- with the exception of Hoffman, is a cut above average. Portman is good as always, even if she is a bad fit for a film like this. Jason Bateman is probably the best part of the film, and also seems to be the only character in the film thats sane. Also, young Zach Mills is less grating than the usual child actor, and does a pretty good job.
All in all, I did not like this film at all- and I would not recommend it to anyone. That said, I could be wrong, and maybe this film just pushed all the wrong buttons for me. Maybe someone a tad less cynical would give this film a pass- but alas, I am not that person.
My Rating: 4/10
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