I have to admit that when I first saw trailers for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, I feared the movie would be terrible. Like most people, I saw it potentially as a low-rent, sanitized version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Then, I saw that it had a vacuum of buzz, with its only big advertising push coming on the children’s television stations. Ultimately, I was cautious when I saw the film.

However, upon seeing it, I was surprised. It actually wasn’t that bad. And the key to seeing the film in a good light is to come at it with the mind of a child. Don’t think about things too much. Try to remember what it was like to be six years old again, and watch it with that eye. If you clutter your mind with too much grown-up worries, you might just miss out.

The film tells the story of a 244-year-old man who runs a magical toy store in the middle of a big city. After centuries of building toys and watching them come to life for kids, Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) has decided it is his time to leave this world. He plans to leave the toy store to his protege Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), and it becomes her journey to accept his fate.

Of course, the film is not without its faults. For example, I’m sure that Dustin Hoffman is trying to do something unique with his lispy, wispy voice, but it does tend to grate on the nerves. And the normally beautiful Natalie Portman is alarmingly androgynous in the film. I know she had to shave her head for her role in V for Vendetta, but don’t you think it’s time t grow some of the hair back?

Zach Mills plays a nine-year-old boy who frequents the emporium, and he’s only so-so. His character serves as narrator, but the meat of the story falls outside of his influence, and Mills doesn’t have the screen charisma to make the movie his.

However, even with these wrinkles in the film, there’s plenty of gems to find inside. The effects are fun, but they aren’t overpowering. And Jason Bateman as the accountant (also known as the “counting mutant” by Mr. Magorium) steals every scene he has.

The G rating for this film is well deserved, even though the subject matter deals with heavier topics like death. Still, it’s a safe film for the whole family. Unfortunately, the movie is a hard sell to parents in search of a quick fix. After all, isn’t it much easier to look at a computer-generated bee and say, “That’s perfect for the kiddies!”

Sadly, with Bee Movie and Fred Claus already in the theaters, gobbling up the pre-Thanksgiving family fare, I fear that Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is going to get lost in the shuffle, and that’s a shame.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is delightfully silly, and if you can get past its wrinkles, it should tap into your inner child. And the honest-to-god kids are going to love it as well.

The Upside: Jason Bateman in a jester’s hat.

The Downside: Natalie Portman looking like a boy. That’ll kill any Hotel Chevalier fantasies you’ve been having.

On the Side: Triskadecaphobia is the fear of the number 13.

Grade: B+

Mr. Magoriums Wonder Emporium Poster Release Date: November 16, 2007
Rated: G
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Zach Mills, Jason Bateman
Director: Zach Helm
Screenplay: Zach Helm
Studio: Fox-Walden
Official Website: Click Here

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