Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) has been running his toy store for, oh, over a hundred years now. He'd like to turn it over to his assistant, Mahoney (Natalie Portman), but she seems rather reluctant. If you haven't guessed by now, Mr. Magorium has magical powers, and Mahoney does not. Hence her reluctance. Gosh, we'd be reluctant, too, especially considering that the toy store has a mind of its own, and so does every toy in it.

I can't recommend this movie, even to kids who have a lot of patience for things to develop. It's a little scary for young kids to see toys grab other kids, or walls turning grey. And it's kind of hard to figure out the adult characters in the script, most of whom just seem rather sad rather than amusing or even kidlike. It is interesting to see where Mahoney is going, and how she gets there, but it takes all together too long in the telling.

Hoffman is fine as Magorium, who is kind of crazy whacko in a nice sort of way. And he has that amusing way of saying crazy things that seems quite rational. But the truth is the movie spends too much time with our star when he isn't the story at all. The story is really Molly Mahoney, plus the nine-year-old boy (Eric, played by Zach Mills) who helps her along the way, plus a straight-laced bookkeeper named Mutant. I'd have loved to see more for each one of these characters, as they are the pieces to this movie puzzle. Mahoney, especially, is not drawn well: she's quite the enigma. Portman makes her seem friendly when she is actually quite sensitive and lacking in self confidence, but we're not really sure why.

The young boy who plays Eric, who is constantly in the toy store and who seems to be the only rational one here, is really watchable. That young actor is going places.

But this movie isn't. The film spends most of its time explaining the situation, and less than one-fourth of it getting out of that situation. Not enough time, not enough characterization on the characters who really need it, and too much on crazy Mr. Magorium.

Thumb's down.

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