By Fred Topel | Images property of 20th Century Fox.
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is the perfect family movie. That is, the perfect family movie by my standards which are to empower the children and make the parents uncomfortable.
Review: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is a magical toymaker with a magical toy shop. When he feels the end of his life approaching, he calls in an accountant (Jason Bateman) to help him leave the shop to his young protégé (Natalie Portman). However, accepting Magorium's passing and bringing finance into the magical world has ramifications for the emporium.
The whole film has a sort of magical logic applied to the fantasy. They apply the real world to this crazy fantasy, and that's comedy. The accountant trying to run numbers on fictional clients and Magorium complaining about natural laws or worrying about figures of speech coming true are examples of intelligent comedy.
Magorium's comments are quick and smart enough to challenge the parents. The kids will be right on his level. Even the end credits are adorable with their logical explanation of people's roles.
All the toys coming to life look practical, even the ones that are in fact CGI. Everything is a subtle effect, not a flashy, snazzy attention whore. The store going bad has some fun gags too. The production design is noticeably fantastic, between the happy version and the drab version of the store, and the best fictional character cameo ever is in this movie.
The movie is really about accepting Magorium's death. That's probably not what people are expecting, but it is handled in a profound and uplifting way.
The characters are all great. The accountant is sweet. He's not an evil money man. He's just doing all he knows how to. No one's ever offered him real magic before. Hoffman's lisp seems like it's trying too hard but Magorium is such an unflappable character, it kind of doesn't matter how obvious he is. Portman finally gets to show some personality after decades of melodrama. She can actually smile. She should do more of that.
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is the kind of movie that almost makes me want to cry for joy at the end because I feel like, "Yeah, they did it."