Thursday, November 22, 2007

Movie Review: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Kid movies without fart jokes. Yes, it is possible.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, written and directed by Zach Helm. Starring Ted Ludzik, Natalie Portman, and Zach Mills. Mandate Pictures, 2007. Runtime 94 minutes. Rated G. USCCB Rating is A-I--General Patronage.

See other reviews here.

Snuffles: Okay, it's not really that good. Not really. But after much debate here last night, I agreed to go soft on it because, mediocre though it is, it means well, and I would like to see other, better movies follow its lead.

D.G.D.: Snuffles and I are having a disagreement. Personally, I think it's a great movie.

Snuffles: Only because Natalie Portman is in it.

D.G.D.: Wha--hey, what are you implying?

Snuffles: Nothing at all. Now step aside and let the mature adult review the movie. To sum it up, Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) runs a magic toy store and has apparently been doing so for well over a century. He also, we are told, designs toys, though most of the toys we see are existing products, which in the world of Magorium's store are able to move on their own.

Magorium, for no compelling reason (he's run out of shoes), decides he's about to die and wishes to bequeath the store to his manager, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), who doesn't feel magical enough to run the place. In order to do this, he hires an accountant, Henry Weston (Jason Bateman) to assess the store. Weston has the sort of stuffy personality you expect of a math whiz in a kid movie, and he can't see any of the store's magical activity. In the midst of this is a socially awkward boy, Eric Applebaum (Zach Mills), who narrates and has trouble making friends. Many of the little subplots never reach a conclusion, and as usual, Dustin Hoffman is excellent but Natalie Portman can't act.

D.G.D.: I thought she did great.

Snuffles: Whatever.

D.G.D.: And the short haircut was quite fetching.

Snuffles: Don't you have something better to do? Anyway, the movie does manage a few moderately emotional moments, particularly surrounding Magorium's approaching death, and it features a wholesome message, too. Best of all--and this is why I'm willing to go light on it--it doesn't try to keep the kiddies entertained through either ADD-inducing action or crude jokes. It aims for a simpler kind of entertainment and a cleaner brand of humor. Problem is, the jokes aren't funny and the magic store isn't that spectacular.

D.G.D.: I thought--

Snuffles: Shut up. While checking the professional reviewers, I found that many of them make the same complaint: the movie is seriously lacking in "wonder." They do, however, feel the movie has plenty of "whimsy." Whether or not the individual critic considers whimsy enough to carry the movie appears to determine whether the review is good or bad. Personally, I thought whimsy was enough--at first. After about an hour, I knew exactly where the story was going and I was impatient for it to get there. In other words, this hour-and-a-half movie is half an hour too long.

D.G.D.: I enjoyed the last half hour.

Snuffles: That's because you were staring at Natalie Portman. Anyway, if you for some strange reason want to take the kids to a family-friendly movie this Thanksgiving weekend, you could do a lot worse. Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is like whole wheat bread: it's bland, but it's wholesome and with its positive messages about the afterlife and believing in yourself and recognizing that there's more to the world than meets the eye, it's even fortifying.

D.G.D.: I love whole wheat bread.

Snuffles: You are really getting on my nerves.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium:

Myth Level: Low. No, high. You've gotta be kidding me.

Quality: Medium. High. Medium! High! Look, she was in
Episode I, too! Are you gonna call that a good movie!?

Ethics/Religion: High. Yeah, okay, I'll give you that one.
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