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Movie Review

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium a.k.a. “Le Merveilleux emporium de M. Magorium,” “Mr. Magorium e la bottega delle meraviglie,” “Mr. Magorium y su tienda mágica,” “Mr. Magoriums Wunderladen”

Reviewed by: Angela Bowman

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family, Kids
Fantasy, Comedy, Drama, Family
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 16, 2007 (wide)
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Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zachary Mills, Ted Ludzik
Director: Zach Helm
Producer: Joe Drake, Richard N. Gladstein, Jim Garavente
Distributor: Fox-Walden

“You have to believe it to see it.”

“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” is a fantastical story about life, in particular the life of Molly Mahoney, but also about the lives of Mr. Magorium, Eric—a young boy who is also the story teller—and Henry, the “Mutant.” It begins at the end of Mr. Magorium’s life and ends when Molly Mahoney, the Emporium Manager, finds hers.

Molly (Natalie Portman) is a young woman who feels she is in a rut. She is a gifted pianist, who is desperately trying to write her own symphony but can’t seem to find her song and always ends up playing pieces of other composers. She is frustrated because she feels she hasn’t excelled in her musical (or other) abilities and is further insulted when a former schoolmate turned engineer runs into her in the store. She sees how he has grown up and into a successful and reputable career and seems to compare that with her own, feeling as though she is a failure. She is still in the same toy store where she worked as a child, playing the same pieces on the piano she played as a child. She feels she must leave the Emporium in order to grow up and find success, however Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) has other plans for her.

Mr. Magorium is a Toy Impresario, Wonder Aficionado and an Avid Shoe-Wearer who also happens to be 243 years old and has owned the Emporium for 113 years. He is an eccentric man to say the least, who has come to the end of his life, and is preparing to leave the Emporium to Molly. As he has never bothered with any of the store’s paperwork, accounting (even taxes), he hires an accountant to clean up and put into order his estate for his heir, Molly. He logically believes the word “accountant” would come from a combination of the words “account” or “accounting” and “mutant” which is how he and the other characters come to refer to Henry the accountant (Jason Bateman) as the “Mutant.”

It is hard to describe the Emporium. It is beyond the most magical toy store a person could think of, where the toys and even the building itself come to life, children come in just to play, every toy your heart desires can be found and there are surprises in every corner; like a (dodge) ball that can’t be dodged. Kermit the Frog browses the shelves and a man named Bellini (Ted Ludzik) lives in the basement, builds books and chronicles the life of Mr. Magorium. Eric (Zach Mills) is a young boy who helps out at the Emporium, he is label as “weird” by the other children, and while he has great talents and a great sense of humor (like creating a statue of Abraham Lincoln out of Lincoln Logs), he is not confident enough to approach other children to make friends.

The Emporium is a wonderful, magical place to all but Henry the “Mutant.” He is so uptight and wrapped up in his job and with being a grown-up that he can’t see the magic going on all around him. It is when he starts working at the Emporium that things start going wrong with the store and the toys (and animals) inside. Because of this, Mr. Magorium is forced to reveal his secret; that he is going to die and leave the store to Molly. Molly does not want to accept his news. She feels that the store’s magic comes from Mr. Magorium and that she doesn’t have what it takes to take over, she also does not want Mr. Magorium to die.

In the end, Eric learns to make a new friend, Henry learns to see the magic, and Molly rises to the occasion of her life, creating a beautiful symphony that makes for an amazing ending to a magnificent tale.

This charming story is truly filled with “magic.” Magic that I believe is a harmless childlike fairy tale type. The children especially who visited the Emporium believed it was magic and because of that could see the “life” in the store, while some of the adults saw it as “just a toy store” and missed out on the wonder. Seeing the children and their childlike trust and belief reminded me of Matthew 18:3 when Jesus tells us that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven we must become like children.

Not to be forgotten, this film also deals with death and accepting death. Mr. Magorium understood that death was a part of life and embraced it while Molly feared and fought it. Because of this, they both looked at his last day in completely opposite ways. He thought that she was giving him a great last day of life and she thought she was giving him reasons to stay. Young children may have questions about death because of this element, so you might want to be prepared, and just in case anyone is concerned, we do not see Mr. Magorium’s dead body. In fact, I only found a few objections to the film. The first: When Henry starts going through Mr. Magorium’s paperwork, he asks about various employees and fictional persons including a “King of Planet Yahweh” whom Mr. Magorium claims is real. I can’t say for sure what was intended by this and maybe it is for the best that they did not elaborate much more, regardless it didn’t come up again. The second: When Mr. Magorium tells Molly that he is going to leave, she doesn’t realize at first that he is talking about dying. Eric tells her that Mr. Magorium is going to heaven and Mr. Magorium makes note of other afterlife possibilities such as Shangri-La and reincarnation (he doesn’t use the word “reincarnation,” but says he could turn into a bumblebee), it sounded to me like he really wasn’t sure what would happen to him, that these were all possibilities. As Christians we know that the only possible “positive” afterlife is heaven and Jesus is the only way to get there. The closest thing to profanity that I caught was the vulgarity “ah crap.”

While I would have preferred the things mentioned above to have been left out of the film, I have to say that they were brief moments and I truly and utterly enjoyed the rest of it. Not only is the score one of the most beautiful I’ve heard, but cinematically, it is truly what one would call “eye candy.” The effects, the coloring, the characters, they really went over the top on this one, and while one might rationalize that you could have too many visual effects, they really work well for this movie. It is quite literally a work of art, especially the ending which was simply overwhelming. I believe the underlying message of the story is that we need to find the “magic” or “sparkle” (something bigger trying to get out) inside ourselves and see it around us, to believe in ourselves, living life to the fullest, accepting and being what God put in our heart versus doing or being what we think will impress others.

Watching “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” was an experience that brought me back to my childhood, Christmas-times in particular, when there was a strong magical electricity in the air, when I still believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, when impossible dreams were still possibilities. And it made me realize that even though one may not be as rigid as Henry, it is easy to get bogged down in our grown-up responsibilities and when that happens we miss out on the magic, or excitement of life going on right in front of us, even within each breath we take.

I recommend watching the credits and reading the creative titles given not only to the actors, but to the rest of the crew as well. If you make it to the very end there is also a very short clip with Mr. Magorium after the credits.

Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Comments available:
Positive—This movie was fun to watch. It was a true G-movie. The acting was phenomenal and the story was engaging. I must admit that I felt they missed the mark at the end. Christians know where their gifts come from: God! The message here is that it comes from inside yourself (could still be God, but they didn’t quite get there). The magic in the movie was purely fantasy and meant to be analogous.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—T Wilkerson, age 40
Positive—I took my mother and 3 young children to see this film. I liked the idea that it was free of many of the offensive language and action that we are becoming all to familiar with. Both my mother and I laughed at several parts of the movie. We thought that the movie was well made and had excellent acting. My children ages 9, 6, and 4 also enjoyed it. My mother who is in her 70’s thought that it was “okay.” This won’t go down in my book as my favorite movie of all time, but for an enjoyable family movie I give it my compliments.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Sharon, age 30
Positive—This movie was a very enjoyable movie, not only for me but for my sisters and parents. Although I have to admit that there were some gloomy parts, overall, the movie was fun and exciting!!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Rebecca Bunn, age 12
Positive—Excellent, excellent film! Dustin Hoffman is BRILLIANT in this film! Loved the story and the quality of the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Shane Dodson, age 32
Neutral—I would like to give this movie a positive rating. I did enjoy it. Although it is designed to entertain children, there is enough to hold adult attention. There is nothing overtly offensive in this movie—no foul language, no violence, no sexual activity. But, unfortunately, it is the complete lack of divinity in the worldview of the film that makes me have a neutral opinion. The movie is beautifully acted by the brilliant Natalie Portman, with solid performances by Jason Bateman and the newcomer (?) Zach Mills, as well as the always eccentric, and here downright zany, Dustin Hoffman. But the story is about a magical toy store, and the magic really veers towards the realm of witchcraft. The message of the story, very pointedly and deliberately presented, is that we must always have faith in ourselves and go forward. Death is presented as some some of weird decision that one makes to leave this world. So despite the charming setting and some good cinematic features, with good music to support the action, this is a strangely dark movie, where there is absolutely nothing higher than the human being except some mysterious world of magic.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
Halyna Barannik, age 61
Neutral—I found this movie to have more serious content than I was expecting for a G movie and based on what little I had heard prior to attending the movie. Mr. Magorium’s DECISION that is life is ending is central to the entire movie. It is a trivial decision based on something he likes in the physical world wearing out, so his life will be ending. In addition Mr. Magorium deciding to die, the concept that he will be going to somewhere better is troubling when heaven, shangrialaa, and other religious concepts (return as a bumblebee) are briefly mentioned. When Mr. Magorium does die, the magic dies with him. He is surrounded by stars as if in space… then we are grave side. The movie is wonderfully made and in general easy for most Christians to see. However, young children that do not have a great understanding of Heaven, death, temptations of other beliefs diluting Christ’s message, etc made me give a Neutral rating. The remainder of the movie subject matters are easier to dismiss… but they are present. Particularly that the power (magic) is in the individual and not from God/Christ… but it is a child’s movie and I could dismiss this if it was not so death centered.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—William, age 41
Neutral—This movie seemed from the trailer …as if it would be a magical adventure with surprise and amazement, when in fact it was a real sleep inducer a meandering somewhat sentimental journey to nowhere inparticular and back. Totally forgettable and not worth the effort to keep your eyes open. Morally devoid of real truth instead more Hollywood claptrap gibberish about finding who you really are. Their lucky stars forbid finding who you are in Christ or His perfect plan for your life. Even my 7 year old son was only slightly entertained and my 11 and 17 year old daughters were only mildly pleased. No harm no foul no truth little good. Save your money for something better. …
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Joe Granitelli, age 53
Neutral—I saw the movie with my 10 year old son who really liked it. I’m very selective of movies and go to the theatres once or twice a year, if that. I found the death/dissapearance content too sad for the film, not entertaining, and not even necessary to the film. I think it ruined my experience as I had anticipated the film would be full of “wonderful” toys and special effects. I think the writer was going for contrast but I don’t think he/she should have gone so dark. I actually felt a little anger that the story approached death in a flippant manner. It was never clear what was going to happen to Mr. Magorium and it seemed he didn’t know himself. Molly takes him for a psychiatric evaluation for fear that he is suicidal (she didn’t use that word), good that she took him, but bad that the doc made light of situation and came off as incompetent, which left me wondering if it was supposed to be funny or serious. If this movie is supposed to be a comedy I missed it, although I thought Dustin Hoffman was excellent in his role. I was also dissappointed at the degree of Molly’s clevage in one scene and she looked anorexic. I didn’t question where the magic came from since it was so obviously impossible. Children imagine toys talking and moving naturally, so seeing them come to life on a movie screen was simple playfulness. The magical toy store plot combined with death seems incongruous. Overall, I thought the film was okay.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Denise Brown, age 47
Neutral—I found this to be a strange film, but Dustan Hoffman was great, as usual. It was sad towards the end, and my 8 year old even cried, my 5 yr. old said this is a bit sad mummy and I had to assure him it was okay. The Yuwah comment was the name they gave a make believe island, but it wasn’t offensive. Otherwise, my kids liked it, and all the magic without the witchcraft was nice for a change, just old fashion magic and make-believe. My kids haven’t really talked about it much, so I guess that’s a indication of what they thought of it…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jane, age 42
Negative—The plot in this movie was pointless. They could have done so much better.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—L Stone, age 41
Negative—My wife and I went to this movie intending to have a very lighthearted and enjoyable evening. In fact, we did thoroughly enjoy the first 30 minutes of the film. It is humorous, engaging and entertaining. However, we were very offended by the flippant use of God’s sacred name in the phrase “the King of the planet Yahweh.” The name “Yahweh” is the holy name God himself revealed to Moses at the burning bush. This flippant phrase represents the most reprehensible violation of God’s command to not take His name in vain. We did leave the movie right after that comment was made. I would encourage other Christians to please avoid this movie and to explain to your children this violation of God’s Holy name.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 5
—Dan Carr, age 44
Negative—My 10 year old daughter and I thought the first 30 minutes or so of this movie was visually lovely to watch. When the movie started centering on death, we both were disappointed. We had gone expecting to see a light movie during the Christmas season. A movie geared to children, rated G, that turned out to be centered on death and the aftermath, was disappointing. The movie changed from colorful and fun to dark and heavy. Fine, I guess, if you are in the mood for that—we weren’t. The ending was abrupt and jolting. Also, I was sorry to see that instead of just saying the character was going to Heaven, other places had to be added as well, including the remark about coming back as a bee. Evidently that was added for the requisite PC slant so pervasive in today’s culture. All in all, my daughter and I felt like we wasted our time and money on this, and wished we had picked something else.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Becky, age 49
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was absolutely adorable. I saw it with my 11-year-old brother, and both of us were laughing constantly. Much cleaner than other kids movies that have been coming out lately. I’d recommend it for ages 8 and older, not because of anything inappropriate, but because I think it would probably bore younger kids.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Linda, age 16