Silver Chips Online

"Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium" offers as little as its title

Family film fails due to weak plot

By Kevin Teng, Online News Editor
November 20, 2007
Few movies targeted at young children feature a silent audience – babies cry, small boys laugh uncontrollably, or little girls scream in delight. In "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," however, the only excitement within the movie theater comes from the children on the movie screen playing with magical toys.

"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" follows Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), a 23 year old debutante and former composer, who suddenly inherits a magical toy store from Edward Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), her 243-year old boss. As Magorium resigns himself to departure (the only explanation he gives for his death is that it is "his time"), Mahoney desperately tries to find a way to run the store.

The movie already sounds like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and for the most part, it is exactly like the adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. The main difference is that "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has a plot. Only the last fifteen minutes of "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" has anything to do with advancement of the story itself – the rest of the movie exhibits overdone character development without much purpose, sparse plot development will confuse small children.

The plot moves in chapters, as narrated by nine year old Eric Applebaum (Zach Mills); it is weakened greatly by the deluge of character development. Mahoney's feelings of self dissatisfaction are explained quite thoroughly through her quirk of air-piano playing. Applebaum is established as a recluse, shown by his obsessions with solo play. Henry Weston (Jason Bateman), an accountant that Mr. Magorium employs to value the assets of the store for Mahoney, is shown to be a realist who only believes what he sees, as is stated explicitly throughout the movie. Any deviations from these dispositions are what make up the plot; unfortunately, these changes are too gradual and predictable to give it any real substance.

"Wonder Emporium" also borrows ideas from acclaimed anime producer Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle." In "Howl's Moving Castle," one person's sentiments can change the way the house acts. Director and writer Zach Helm even takes the idea of turning a knob to change what is behind a door from one location to another. Unoriginal ideas add agony to already weak and unoriginal plot lines.

The movie also lacks creativity in the magical toys – they just arbitrarily move around. For example, when a couple of curious kids in the store open the "balls" room, they immediately see differently colored balls bouncing around. The main feature of this room is an enormous dodgeball that no one can dodge because it is so big. Big things are (not) magically inspiring!

The actors – Hoffman, Portman, Bateman and Applebaum – serve their roles well; they all establish their character's traits without difficulty. Hoffman retains his childishness and semi-lisp accent throughout the movie. Applebaum,12, acts perfectly in portraying difficult emotions. Bateman and Portman convincingly express each of their own character's flaws as well.

The main message of this movie is to believe in yourself – a point that is embodied by all of the main characters. This overused idea employs magic as the medium for self-confidence. However, this is no Peter Pan. A believe-in-yourself movie that is not a tale of heroism or adventure is boring, at best. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was a hit because of its adventurous creativity, but the same idea does not work so well more than once.

Self-esteem is a beautiful thing. Gaining it through a magical toy store is not. Since entertainment for young children is derived from how "awesome" something is, "Wonder Emporium" is atrocious as a family movie – its premise expired years ago.

"Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" is rated G. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/7921