Reviewed by Susan Lloyd
Mr. Magorim's Wonder Emporium
"...the perfect Friday night film for a family, a young couple, or anyone who loves the world of whimsy and wonder."
I’ve always enjoyed movies that explore the imagination and wonderment of a child, so Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium was a film I was looking forward to viewing and subsequently reviewing. I had some reservations, though, because too often movies that explore the world of whimsy can seem a little over the top and frankly, they just try too hard. But MMWE made no such offensive mistakes. Well-balanced, colorful, and even sophisticated, the film seems to be made for children, but the impact of the message will resonate more with the adults who view it.
Top billing for the movie goes to Natalie Portman who shares a great deal of celluloid time with the masterful Dustin Hoffman. Portman’s character, Molly Mahoney, is a curious blend of Mary Poppins, Annie Hall, and Eliza Doolittle (without the cockney accent) but the shadings of those characters are subtle. Mahoney is her own character who seems to be a person loaded with potential but unfortunately no sense of self-worth. Hoffman’s character is a careful blend of Daffy Duck and Albert Einstein, which seems to be a combination that would lend itself to caricature. But Hoffman plays the role in such an elegant and convincing way, it seems no actor in Hollywood could have done a better job.
Jason Bateman and Zach Mills play the supporting roles of Henry, a stuffy accountant hired by Magorium, and Eric, a young boy who has a huge imagination but no real friends. While the main issue at hand in the story is the impending conviction that Molly Mahoney is indeed capable of doing something amazing, the development of a friendship between Henry and Eric almost steals the show. In fact, the more touching and engaging moments in the film were between those two as they slowly broke down the walls of solitude and stoicism. It was refreshing to see the wide-eyed innocence of Eric butted up against the manufactured reserve of Henry. And it was rewarding to see the former wear down the latter until the two shared a moment of “pretending” while enjoying Henry’s vast hat collection.
The film itself is full of well placed “wonderment” details and the careful attention to those details gives the film a delicate air. Viewers are treated to watching the love-sick yearnings of a sock monkey, a playful Frisbee session with a wooden dinosaur, and even a fun little cameo by Kermit the Frog. It’s obvious a lot of thought went into the actual construction of the Emporium set, making it a location that every child (and adult) who views the film will hope to visit someday!
There were several worthwhile messages generated by the film, all of which would make for great discussion between a parent and a child after viewing it together. Each character has his or her own lesson to learn, although Mr. Magorium seems to know and understand his lesson so well that he handles it with great dignity. I can’t exactly say what his lesson is without spoiling the plot, but the point that we need to make the most of every moment of our lives is well taken. Molly, on the other hand, is unsure of herself and completely discouraged. Her lesson is to realize that she must believe in herself and her purpose in order to make the “magic” happen. Eric has to be courageous as he seeks to open his world up to other people, and Henry has to understand that revisiting his childhood is a must if he is to understand how wonder can enrich his life.
I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anyone, especially to families with children under the age of 14. Teens who can see past the “toy-store” setting of the film will enjoy it, but there is an abundance of wonder, not action or comedy, so some older teens may find it boring. Children and adults will find it engaging and entertaining and never so heavy that it becomes draining or intense. There is a funeral scene, so parents can be pre-warned about a moment of sadness to be dealt with. However, the scene is beautifully handled, and from a visual standpoint it’s one of the most well composed funeral scenes I’ve ever witnessed in movie.
Do spend an evening at home with Mr. Magorium. It’s the perfect Friday night film for a family, a young couple, or anyone who loves the world of whimsy and wonder.
MPAA Rating: G
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Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com