Saturday, April 19, 2008

Movie Review: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

If you're looking for a little magic in your life, stop by Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. It's a charming little shop, cozily sandwiched between two skyscrapers in what appears to be New York City. Mr. Magorium may no longer be there, but Mahoney is, along with Bellini, the Mutant, and Eric.

There is always something to do: read, build, experiment, play dodge ball with the world's largest ball. Children run riot and parents seem especially relaxed.

Eric (Zach Mills), who is nine-years-old and whose only friend is Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), narrates the story. Molly--who is always referred to as "Mahoney"--is the manager of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium and a former child prodigy at the piano. She is trying to write her own piano concerto, but is stuck. Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is 243 years old and an avid wearer of shoes. He hires an accountant, Henry Weston (Jason Bateman), to figure out how much the store is worth because it's time for Mr. Magorium to leave. He fell in love with a pair of shoes in Tuscany, bought enough to last him his whole life, and now he's worn out his last pair. So, it's time to go.

It makes perfect sense, you see.

Mr. Magorium takes Henry, who is called "Mutant" by a convoluted chain of reasoning, into the office where there is a hodgepodge of boxes and ledgers dating back hundreds of years. Henry's not sure what to make of it all, especially since Mr. Magorium hasn't filed a tax return or for a business license ever. But Henry knows how to work (whether he knows how to play is in question) and he gets right too it.

Henry can't figure out how Mahoney seems to just go with the flow of it.

Mr. Magorium eventually tells Mahoney he's leaving and that the store will be hers. She protests: he's healthy, he's magic, she's not, the world won't be the same without him. In reply Mr. Magorium gives her a block of wood. Mahoney isn't sure what to do with it, but Mr. Magorium tells her she'll know.

Will Mahoney ever finish her piano concerto? Will she find her sparkle? Will Eric ever make a friend? Will Henry learn to play? Will Bellini finish Mr. Magorium's story and start a new one?

Did Mr. Magorium really give Thomas Edison the idea for the light bulb?

In addition to having storylines about believing in yourself, reaching out to others, and learning to play, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium pays homage to several classic movies. Dustin Hoffman seems to be channeling Ed Wynn's "Uncle Albert" from Mary Poppins. Mahoney has to look in the "Big Book" in order to find a fire truck with "hoses that really squirt water" (the original Miracle on 34th Street). An early scene reminds me of the bookstore in You've Got Mail. There is a bit of the original Willie Wonka in this movie, too.

There's also lots of puns, visual and verbal, as in Eric making sure that Mr. Magorium has "plenty of space to sleep in."

Having said all that, both DS#2 and I felt that the ending was flat, almost as though the director felt the show had gone on long enough and he had to wrap it up NOW. The relationship between Henry and Mahoney is never really resolved, although it's kind of nice that the male and female leads don't have to be in a romantic relationship. Still, something's missing...

This movie is available on DVD and On Demand. Hubs chose it (it was his birthday) and DS#2 watched it with us. Younger kids would miss the film references and some of the puns, but likely would be captivated by the toys and the idea that a store can have a temper tantrum. Death is treated gently and matter-of-factly ("one story ends so another can begin").

On the March Hare Scale: 4.5 out 5 Golden Tickets

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

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