Byline: Daniel M. Kimmel
COLUMN: Movie review
The folks at Walden Media, who co-produced this, have made themselves a name to reckon with by financing movie adaptations of modern children's literature. With "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" they have elected to back an original production. The result is a cloying mess that may entertain the very young, but may leave people who measure their ages in double digits screaming for the exits.
Mr. Magorium runs a magical toy store with the assistance of a sweet but insecure young woman named Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), and a sweet but friendless little boy named Zach (Eric Appelbaum) who collects hats. Joining them is the sweet but conservative accountant Henry (Jason Bateman), who has been hired to put the store's financial affairs in order. The plot, if it can be called that, is that Magorium has decided that after 243 years it's time to die, and he was wants to bequeath the store to the reluctant Molly.
For uncritical little children the film may seem like a magical adventure. There's the elfin and comical Magorium, and there's the colorful and magical store that includes a room for nothing but bouncing balls and a catalog that instantly produces whatever toy you need. The message in the movie is that you have to believe in yourself and make an effort, and then anything is possible. For parents worrying about Magorium's death, it is done in as unthreatening a way as possible, with the implied message that it's a part of life and not something to fear.
However, for parents who accompany their little ones to the theater, the movie soon turns into the cinematic equivalent of fingernails on the blackboard. The two leads - Hoffman and Portman - turn in what could be career-worst performances. Hoffman prances and lisps his way through the film, as if Ratzo Rizzo were channeling Willy...