Reviewed by: Angela Bowman
|Featuring:||Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zachary Mills, Ted Ludzik|
|Producer:||Joe Drake, Richard N. Gladstein, Jim Garavente|
“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.