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Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

IT MAY boast a strange premise and struggle to work in places but Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium should appeal to anyone who still feels young at heart. It’s a children’s movie that dares to be different, that’s boosted by some wonderful performances and a keen sense of imagination. What’s more, it will also touch the heart.

Eccentric toy shop owner Mr Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) decides that it’s time to leave – at the ripe old age of 243 – and hand over the store to his long-time assistant, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman).

But the decision prompts the magical toy store to throw a massive tantrum and causes a crisis of confidence in Molly. And it’s left to lonely young hat collector Eric (Zach Mills) and uptight accountant Henry Weston (Jason Bateman) to try and save the day.

Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium stems from the imagination of writer-director Zach Helm, who last teamed up with Hoffman for the criminally under-rated Stranger Than Fiction (which he wrote).

But while it’s not in the same league as that film it does consistently entertain and includes some very nice touches that succeed in showcasing a really promising filmmaker.

The emporium, for instance, is packed with toys that come to life and rooms that constantly evolve, while Mr Magorium is a wildly flamboyant yet kindly and sympathetic magician. Hoffman plays him perfectly and imparts several pearls of wisdom that are likely to strike a chord with older viewers.

Portman appears less sure as Molly, and occasionally struggles with some of the film’s shifts in tone, but Mills manages to keep Eric kooky and endearing while Bateman shines as Henry. There are several nice scenes between the central players, including Molly’s poignant final day with Mr Magorium and a sequence set to music between Eric and Henry.

Watch out, too, for a sly cameo from a Muppet favourite and a sympathetic sock monkey that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings!

Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium won’t be to everyone’s taste (and it certainly divided opinion among the critics I saw it with) but it’s an original, amusing and quite often tear-jerking piece of work that’s capable of charming viewers of any age.

Certificate: U
Running time: 94mins
UK DVD release date: May 12, 2008