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DVD Review: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

Mr. Magorium is ready to hang up his hat. As the magical owner of a mysterious toy store, he has entertained generations of children but finally realizes that his time on Earth has run its course. His succession plan relies entirely on the quirky and decidedly non-magical manager of his store, Molly Mahoney, an able assistant who seems to have never grown into true adulthood. As a reluctant heir, Molly is faced with the decision of keeping the store or selling out and ending its run.

As Mr. Magorium, Dustin Hoffman gets to wear a funny wig and bushy eyebrows, adding to his mad professor character. He’s in full freak mode here, mooning and overacting to enforce his magical nature as a man out of his time. As Molly, Natalie Portman has a slight role that requires very little heavy lifting, basically just acting as a straight woman to the eccentric Magorium. Both appear far too earnest in the early stages of the film, making their interactions seem like something out of a sugary kid’s TV show, but eventually they settle into a comfortable banter that suitably demonstrates the huge respect their characters have for each other. Jason Bateman also appears as a stuffy accountant learning to recapture some of his own childhood belief in magic, but his role is largely unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

The film was written and directed by Zack Helm, previously most notable for his Stranger Than Fiction script. Here he’s given the keys to the entire toy shop and runs wild with the idea, crafting an immense set stuffed with all manner of toys, a staggering count of over 10,000 individual items according to the bonus features. That set is the most compelling thing about the film as it really does give the setting a sense of magic and huge scale that seems otherworldly. Unfortunately, he also relies on a fair amount of CGI trickery for much of the toy movement, and that CGI quality is decidedly sub-par, erasing some of the magic built up by the actual set. That leaves viewers with the central story about Magorium and Molly, a completely obvious plot that leads to an inevitable conclusion.

The Emporium is a fun place to visit and a fairly heartwarming tale, but it’s a minor work with little lasting appeal. Notably, it received a G rating and is definitely suitable for all audiences. The film is now available on DVD and includes standard bonus features about the production.

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