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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Mr. Magorium’ covers adult themes in a sweet coating

In short, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is essentially Willy Wonka plus Toy Story.

It’s another one of these movies where it really helps to grind your teeth a little and let go of reality. Obviously, this proves to be quite a challenge as, at first glance, the premise is thoroughly ridiculous and doesn’t get much better. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

While definitely quirky and endlessly quotable, we are without doubt dealing with an adult film here, though the kids will get a kick out the special effects. It’s not gratuitous or incredibly sinister (it is rated G, after all), but it only masquerades as a bright and busy kiddie film, nonetheless. In fact, after you remove the vibrant filter of pixie dust, you’re really left with little more than Death of a Salesman meets the ever-true tale of young people who are lost in the world. You might have to dig for them quite a bit, but under the magic and monkey business lay the mature themes that are at the heart of all the best children’s fables.

At its chocolate-covered center is Mr. Magorium, owner of the Wonder Emporium, total goof ball and alvid shoe-wearer. He is 243 years old, speaks with a lisp and is ready to leave all of his toys -- for good. Dustin Hoffman’s performance is strictly for the little ones here as the sugar content is really too high for any person over the age of 12. Look past all that, however, and we are able to connect with him as a humble shopkeeper who is ready to pass the buck to his apprentice, unwilling as she – or the store – may be, at least at first.

Opposite Hoffman is a frigid Natalie Portman as Molly Mahoney, store manager of the Wonder Emporium, former child musical prodigy and confused twenty-something. When told she will be handed the reins to the store she immediately backs down from the challenge, the reversal of which forms much of the meat of the latter chapters. While she has managed the store for years and seen magic occur every day within the store’s walls, she still finds trouble finding the magician inside her. She eventually comes to the realization that she must retune the store in her own image. Magorium teaches her, and by extent all the bewildered twenty-somethings out there, that her life is an occasion and she must rise to it.

Continuing this circle of life thematic parade is the young Zach Mills’ Eric Applebaum, Lincoln log extraordinaire, capital hat collector and adolescent outcast. His mother encourages him to play with kids his own age, but he spends all his time at the toy store. Mahoney and the store’s accountant, the "counting mutant" a la Jason Bateman, are his only friends. The youngster and the young adult form a formidable team as neither can seem to find their place in the big scheme of things. This is where skepticism and idealism cross paths.

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