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Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Fox // G // March 4, 2008
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 18, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

There has been quite an influx of family movies by the similarly oriented Walden Media. The folks behind such efforts as The Chronicles of Narnia and Bridge To Terabithia have also put together cinematic adaptions of long-favored children's books like How to Eat Fried Worms and a live-action version of Charlotte's Web, and the thread between all the films seems to be material that is quite family-friendly. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is one of the first such films to be released with a major studio involved, as Fox decided to provide the film with a wide release.

Written and directed by Zach Helm (Stranger Than Fiction), the film's title takes its name from a successful and long-running toy store that is run by Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man), a man who has pleased kids for generations with his magical wonderland of a store. And unlike some people, at almost 250 years of age, his age would make a good bowling score. But he's certainly in the winter months of his life, and he tries to get a young woman named Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman, V For Vendetta) into running the store, despite the objections she has about her skills to run it as well as Mr. Magorium, besides the fact that she wants to write music. The man who is helping to get Mr. Magorium's affairs in order is an accountant named Henry (Jason Bateman, The Kingdom), a guy lovingly referred to as "mutant" by those at the store, but all he wants to try and get done is work. A quiet nine year old named Eric (Zach Mills, Hollywoodland) wants to help break Henry out of his rigid businessmanlike shell, while Molly tries to get Mr. Magorium to stick around, to no avail.

So now that you know the basics of the story, allow me to let you know that the wife and I had a slight difference of opinion on the film. She liked the concept in general; and I agree with her to a certain extent. The idea of a toy store coming to life, taking on the properties of whomever might own it, certainly is charming. However, the execution in Mr. Magorium's fails in this. It gets that particular concept across, but there's also supposed to be a whole subplot about how the story's protagonist overcomes their fears. And instead, we get a film where Helm becomes enamored with the title character, and Hoffman's role as the quarter-millenium old Magorium is one where Hoffman uses a wig that is reminiscent of Jim Ignatowski and a speech influction that's a little on the Willy Wonka side of things. What this fascination does is take the attention away from flushing out the other storylines that could have been more powerful and quite frankly seemed to stare Helm in the face.

The more obvious one is the chance to see Mahoney overcome her apprehensions and take over the store. This was probably the primary storyline, and it seems like this is only checked in on every so often to remind you that it's still there. She plays "air piano" from time to time to remind you that she is a musician after all, even if one scene has her playing at a Nordstrom-type store. Portman is a talented actress, but in the film she smiles and looks wistful every so often, and it's a waste. Speaking of waste, the second one is watching Henry overcome his presumably stodgy interior to warm up to Eric and his intentions. This could have been flushed out more (in a scene where he and Eric first start talking to one another, this sequence was cute though not at all as good as it could have been told and shown), but there's not a lot of space to cover this secondary story, and Bateman, who's shown his comic abilities in other films, could have done something here to show off the quiet charm that his character could have had. It all results in wasted efforts all around, despite the best intentions.

The Blu-ray Disc:

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium appears in a 2.35:1 widescreen AVC MPEG-4 encoded presentation, and it looks solid. There's quite a bit of depth in the image, to the point where you can tell which characters appear on green screens from time to time. The wide color palette employed in the film is reproduced quite accurately here along with the fleshtones and background sets. All in all this is a nice, warm picture to enjoy.


When I grow up, I want to be a DTS-HD Master Lossless audio soundtrack on a Fox Blu-ray release. Seriously. The dialogue remains strong in the center channel, there are plenty of directional effects and the soundstage is widespread and immersive, with subwoofer activity present when expected. It is a solid though not spectacular soundtrack, for what it's worth.


Fox has been notoriously erratic when it comes to their Blu-ray releases; while they've apparently brought a pretty loaded version of I, Robot to the tables, they've neglected other, slightly older catalog titles like Cast Away and Independence Day. And aside from some trailers, Fox has included a grand total of zero extras to the disc, which is disappointing as the standard definition disc got at least a couple of things. And no, trailers for Nim's Island, Eragon, Night at the Museum, and the sequels to Ice Age and Fantastic Four don't count. For shame Fox, for shame.

Final Thoughts:

Well, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium has to be praised for its unique idea that Helm put together. The problem is that its focus was off and its storytelling was weak. I liked how the film looked and sounded, and if you really liked the film, the best idea would be to pick up the Blu-ray copy for the technical qualities, but if you haven't seen the film, I'm going to be your traffic cop on the disc: "Move along, nothing to see here folks."

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