Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Imagine a place where you could spend all day surrounded by toys. Soft and cuddly toys, construction toys, action toys, dressing up clothes, games, puzzles and interactive toys. Toys you can play with as much as you want. Molly Mahoney works in such a place. But, unaccountably, she's miserable about it. It's some kind of grown-up thing, an early mid-life crisis - a conviction that she ought to be out there doing grown-up stuff and being a somebody. Or it could just be that she's realised how boring she is.

Unfortunately, it's to this miserable young woman, rather than to the inventive young Eric (with his fabulous hat collection) or the fun-on-the-inside 'mutant' accountant Henry, that the peculiar and much-loved Mr. Magorium leaves his titular toy shop. And the shop doesn't like it one bit.

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What kind of place could possibly be as much fun as a magical toy shop? A chocolate factory, perhaps? This film knows it, and is at its most painful when trying to compete. As Magorium, Dustin Hoffman tries desperately to be Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka, but lacks the creepiness which gave that character his edge, a quality children love but which one just can't get away with in children's films these days. As such, he's just another crazy old man, teller of tall tales and wearer of cheerfully ridiculous suits. He's likable enough, but forgettable. Natalie Portman, meanwhile, drifts through her role on autopilot. We're told that she doesn't believe in herself. The sad truth is that neither does this film.

That said, a film set in a toyshop can only go so wrong. It seems to have been successful in appealing to children of all ages and adults will find it pleasant enough to sit through, too, which is more than can be said for most Christmas fayre. Whilst it might not dazzle, and its ending is weak, it manages not to be offensive either. The direction is pedestrian but the set dressing is marvellous and really brings the film to life, outdoors and in Molly and Eric's homes as well as in the shop itself. The closing credit for 'people who put things in the right order' is well deserved - there are remarkably few continuity errors for a film which often has a dozen things happening onscreen at once. The special effects are a bit hit and miss but there's clearly been a huge imaginative effort made in creating Mr. Magorium's world, and there's plenty here to inspire the imaginations of children.

Pleasingly, despite its opportunities, this film doesn't push particular toy lines. It sets up good ideas for play with toys already owned and loved, and it may make children more aware of classic (and more affordable) toys. It features a strong performance from its young lead, Zach Mills, as a slightly odd and lonely child who finds it easier to talk to adults than other children. All in all, it makes for a pleasant day out - its tragedy is simply that it ought to have made for an amazing one.

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2007
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Can a magical toy shop survive the loss of its creator?
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Read more Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium reviews:

Paul Griffiths **1/2

Director: Zach Helm

Writer: Zach Helm

Starring: Natalie Portman, Dustin Hoffman, Zach Mills, Jason Bateman, Ted Ludzik, Mike Realba, Steve Whitmire, Liam Powley-Webster, Marcia Bennett

Year: 2007

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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