Friday, November 23, 2007



Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman (pic), Jason Bateman & Zachary Mills
Director: Zach Helm
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? If you are looking for some really enchanting gift ideas this Christmas season, you won't find it in "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium". The 'magic' that is touted in the movie's trailer lasts for about 20 minutes during its opening sequences - and then it starts to sputter and stall.

The title is unintentionally apt because from then on, you will be in a state of 'wonder' - trying to figure out what this fantasy kiddie flick is trying to do. Then, when you arrive at the answer, you will realise that this is not the fun-and-frolic movie you had expected it to be...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is a quaint toy store owned by a 243-year-old man (Dustin Hoffman). The store is managed by Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), a once promising pianist and composer who has lost her inspiration. When we meet Mr Magorium, we see him planning to 'leave the world' because he is down to his last pair of custom-made Italian shoes. For some strange reason, he wants to bequeath the store to Molly, whom we know has lost her inspiration and has even stated that she wants to quit her job.
To prepare the paperwork for this transfer of ownership, Mr Magorium hires accountant Henry Weston (Jason Bateman), who gets saddled with the 114-year-old store's nightmarish bookkeeping in order to determine its value. Molly, of course, will not allow Magorium to leave, saying she will not be able to manage it all by herself. So does nine-year-old Eric Applebaum (Zachary Mills), the emporium's most devoted customer who is considered a weirdo among his peers. Even the 'magical store' balks at the idea of Magorium's departure and throws a nasty tantrum!

HITS & MISSES: Now, what's this about Magorium's imminent departure? What's the big deal about it when doctors have given him a clean bill of health? Would you believe all this is about death - in a kiddie movie?!!Unlike writer-director Zach Helm's previous screenplay, "Stranger Than Fiction", this one loses its charm very quickly. It is probably due to its morbid theme of mortality that shrouds the proceedings in an atmosphere of gloom. Sure, there is the overriding message about having faith and believing in oneself, but it sounds rather clich├ęd and superficial in a movie that lacks dramatic tension and 'cool' thrills. The toys in the emporium appear like what the grandpas of today's kids used to play with. There are no electronic games like PS3 or sexy Bratz dolls - mostly balls, hoops and doll houses meant for six-year-olds. Indeed, the target crowd for this movie seems to be six to nine-year-olds and older kids may scoff at it

Hoffman has a thankless job, talking with a lisp and trying to look like an older version of Willie Wonka. Portman, who had impressed us with her performance in "V For Vendetta" and "Goya's Ghosts", looks rather lost here, and Bateman is 'just okay, man'. The only star who shines is Zachary Mills as the cute, hat-loving Eric.

THE LOWDOWN: All the best parts of "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" are shown in its trailer. The movie is a disappointment.


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