MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM: 3 ½ STARS
In a world where wonder is in short supply, Mr. Margorium’s Wonder Emporium is an oasis of amazement. Located in an unnamed city (one that looks an awful lot like Toronto) it’s a Rube Goldbergesque kind of toy store where sock monkeys come to life, giant basketballs dwarf the kid customers and a mobile made of real fish hangs from the ceiling. In short, it’s FAO Schwartz on steroids and such an astonishing place even Kermit the Frog shop there!
The shop is run by Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) a 243 year-old “wonder aficionado” who sleeps upside down, wears too-tight Mr. Dress-Up suits and once played Jumping Jacks with Abe Lincoln. Years ago he bought enough shoes in a store in Tuscany to last his whole life. He’s now on the last pair and wants to get his affairs in order before he leaves the world.
He plans on leaving the store to his manager, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), a young piano prodigy who lacks confidence in herself. His first step is to bring in an accountant (Jason Bateman) to audit the store—no records have been kept since the 1770s—and take care of all the paperwork. The accountant, or Mutant as Magorium calls him, is a workaholic with a distinct lack of wonder in his life. As Margorium’s last day approaches Molly must come to grips with the loss of her mentor, a magical store that is literally throwing a temper tantrum, a young misfit who doesn’t have any friends and the skeptical Mutant. In the end Molly learns that anything is possible—even magic—if you believe in yourself.
Mr. Margorium’s Wonder Emporium is a rarity—a kid’s movie that doesn’t try and cater to an adult audience by slipping in jokes that the little ones won’t understand. It is a gentle fantasy with corny jokes, some magical images, but none of the mean-spirited edge that crept into the similarly themed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The tone is sweet throughout, and while Hoffman’s performance borders on annoying—think Uncle Bobby on helium—the film’s sense of wonder and G-rated sensibility should have great appeal to kids.