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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.7%
Worth A Look: 3.7%
Average: 25.93%
Pretty Bad: 3.7%
Total Crap62.96%

3 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"It's Time For Cosmic Euthanasia, Kiddies!"
1 stars

There’s a fascinating cyclical nature that comes with the order of movie releases. Here we are in the eleventh month of November and week after week we’re having a new family-based entertainment to compete for your bottom dollar. Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie was about the humans taking what wasn’t rightfully theirs but for the good of the world. Fred Claus is about humans alternating between believing in Santa and trying to shut him down and being naughty but receiving presents anyway. Zach Helm’s rhyming new Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is about a Santa-like toy seller whose magic can clearly be seen by customers whether they pay or not and references the potential consequences of leaving the hive for good, much like Bee Movie. Isn’t that neat? That’s a question we should be asking more of during our stay in the Emporium, but it’s simply impossible. This is a children’s film that needs a little bullying to shake some sense out of it; a tediously unimaginative short story run amok that will somehow put kids to sleep who are already sleeping and maybe wake up adults who were overly harsh on Barry Levinson for Toys.

The Mr. Magorium of the title is played by Dustin Hoffman. For the 243 years of his existence, he has apparently entertained historical celebrities with his magical ways. Documented by a giant in his store basement who “makes the books”, Mr. Magorium now runs a toy store in a metropolitan downtown area with live animals, secret doors and super-enhanced versions of popular toys. Managed on a daily basis by the only employee he has, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) is a wannabe pianist who can’t quite take it to the next level. For her troubles, the old man gives her a cube of wood and asks her to believe in it. Meanwhile, Henry Weston (Jason Bateman) enters their lives, an accountant referred to as “The Mutant”, taking inventory for reasons you’d have thought the IRS would have showed up for much earlier. But, despite every object in the place having a life of their own and frequented by parents and children enjoying them, Henry just doesn’t believe in the whole magic store contention.

The Wonder Emporium is undergoing some changes though. The once bright red walls are beginning to gray over, a “temper tantrum” its throwing after hearing that their beloved owner is leaving. Not just going home for the night or retiring after some two centuries of service. No, he’s going to DIE! Aw, poor Mr. Magorium is going on moratorium and then to the crematorium. Oh, don’t worry. He’s not sick or anything. It’s just his time to go. Molly’s reaction is the same as ours and despite trying to remind him of the finer things in life, he’s still choosing death and leaving his store to the self-doubting Molly who still can’t figure out what to do with that chunk of wood.

Before you shout out any ideas to her, let’s get back to the whole retirement-as-death scenario that serves as the crux of anything desperately driving this film to the next batch of credits. Wedging lessons of mortality into a children’s film isn’t anything new. Disney has been killing off parents for years and Charlotte’s Web (turned into an all-too-overlooked film last Christmas) is easily one of the greatest children’s tales of all-time. Turning such an preconceived icky creature into a beautiful instrument of nature is no easy feat and our feelings towards Charlotte’s demise are exemplified through the storytelling and it’s hero, Wilbur. Mr. Magorium is no Charlotte, but he is an icky creature we’d sooner see squashed then listen to another piece of screwball wisdom coming from his lisping piehole. Dustin Hoffman can be a master of creating unique comedic characters such as in Wag the Dog and his cameo as Mumbles in Dick Tracy, but what he’s doing here is anyone’s guess. Crossed somewhere between Rain Man and a guy who lives in a perpetual state of peeing his pants, Mr. Magorium has no significant definition as a character other than having a movie named after him.

Shouldn’t a centuries-old dude with access to magic rooms and encyclopedic volumes written about him have, I don’t know, a little more fascination surrounding him? His clientele is not hidden from the wonders of his product, including the catalog that instantly materializes samples. Wouldn’t there be a line around the block just to window shop this place? Without the motion-enhanced creations clearly not living by the rules of The Velveteen Rabbit or Toy Story, the Emporium is just a junior version of an FAO Schwartz. Hell, Kermit the Frog shows up at one point! No, he’s not part of the store. He’s just shopping. No other reference to him. No one sees him. We just got a cameo from a puppet! It’s as if helmer Zach Helm had one idea (a magic toy store) and just regressed back to the days when he used to imagine having conversations with his Teddy Ruxpin; a riveting dialogue to be sure that is probably the extent of his imagination sedation.

Lunarest are not the type of pills you should imagined you just took upon reflection of the Wonder Emporium. But since this is a film essentially about cosmic euthanasia, the dementia of an overdose as such seems most appropriate. When the most effecting performance comes from a monkey doll with a perpetual expression of sadness that no one wants him, then perhaps it’s not the toys that need a little life to them. We shouldn’t be cringing at Portman’s bouncy Bernstein impression in trying to bring the store back to Technicolor, a process that should have served as a stepping stone to the film’s art design which is blandly conceived at best. After Stranger Than Fiction, a good idea executed to incompetency by Helm’s script, you wouldn’t have expected Zach to jump into his directorial debut with another fanciful story about a stuffy money counter drawn into a fantasy world with a beautiful “believer” who finally gets him to smile. Better start embracing that taxman though, Zach, cause if you keep writing films like these all you’ll be left with are your fantasies – which, frankly, might be best kept to yourself anyway.

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originally posted: 11/16/07 16:00:00
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User Comments

12/17/18 Ajpwales Awful. Voice. Sugar sweet. Money for hoffman. 1 stars
7/10/09 Shelley Smith The worst film I've seen this year. Leaps past Hook for bad idea. 1 stars
9/01/08 connie take time to muse with's not just mindless entertainment! 4 stars
3/11/08 Brenda Warren This is my favorite movie of the year!! MUST SEE 5 stars
11/25/07 Alex This movie was INCREDIBLY awful -but the name is just so horrific it's still the worst part 1 stars
11/23/07 Jack Orvis One of the worst ever films to date 1 stars
11/20/07 julie filmmaking of the worst order 2 stars
11/18/07 william thornton the worst movie I have seen in at least 10 years 1 stars
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  DVD: 04-Mar-2008



Directed by
  Zach Helm

Written by
  Zach Helm

  Natalie Portman
  Dustin Hoffman
  Jason Bateman
  Zach Mills

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