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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007), ITV1

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zack Mills
Genre: Family Fantasy Comedy
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: over $69 million 

Plot: Molly Mahoney is the awkward and insecure manager of Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium: the strangest, most fantastic, most wonderful toy store in the world. But when Mr Edward Magorium, the 243-year-old eccentric who owns the store, bequeaths the store to her, a dark and ominous change begins to take over the one -remarkable Emporium  

'This Emporium Is Filled With Awe & Wonder' 

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is one of those family fantasy films that Hollywood barely makes anymore and if they do, it tends to be either a) CGI animated or b) live- action but with added fantasy action and violence. But live action family films with special effects that aren't all about monsters, villains and all that stuff, is very rare these days, and it's a terrible shame that in watching this film, it makes me lament over the decline of live- action fantasy comedies, and good ones to boot that is. 

For Mr Magorium the time has come for him to step aside, - or be it face the end of life and to move on, but this has an effect on the toy store itself and with that it loses its colour, and by losing its colour it loses it sparkle, that fun and that imagination and excitement it illicit. Magorium then turns to 23-year-old Mahoney: the only problem is, she doesn't have faith in herself and doesn't think she is good enough to run the store.  

I really like the opening credits: the 2D animated colourful visuals emphasise that feel as if you are in a large toy store. The special effects in this film are just fantastic and really bring it to life and all the chaos that occurs inside the Emporium. But amidst all the impressive visuals, there are some great performances and an equally good story. 

As ever, critics didn't respond favourably to this film, nor does the IMDb rating do it any justice; I think this might be because, and I'm just assuming here, that this wasn't what they expected this film to be, but also they probably don't understand the context or getting to the message of what the story is about and trying to tell the audience. In Mr Magorium, it is a story about passing the baton onto the next generation in line, about the aftermath of death and how we ought to approach it. Or make it. How in a fantasy family film context deals with this particular issue - and that is not always easy. It's not always an easy thing to do in any genre of film.

The wonder Emporium is basically Hamleys toy store in London -only 10 times vast and even more extravagant. One can't help feel but like you are in the Emporium itself. There is even a short appearance by Kermit the Frog! 

Molly Mahoney is the pivotal character in this film and Edward Magorium is Molly's boss and toy maker, played by Dustin Hoffman. He is completely unlike all of the other characters he has played before. He has a smile on his face, is very optimistic - and that is despite him facing impending death. There are four main characters in this film, Molly, Edward, Eric and Henry and each of them has their own story arc, as well as subplot that they face: Molly has her heart set on becoming a musician rather than being Mr Magorium's successor of the store, Eric has to make a friend and Henry has to learn how to let go of his stuffy attitude, and to have fun. When Mr Magorium breaks the news to Molly that he is about to 'go', at first she doesn't take the news very well and does all she can to make sure he stays alive. But with that, as time flies by, Molly realises she has to be prepared for what lies ahead for her. 

I see to it that people who watch this film will think it is crap and terrible, and don't buy any of it. But for the rest of us, who enjoy films like Mr Magorium and enjoy the fun, whimsical aspect, as well as the warm-hearted nature this film transcends, it is really is one to behold. That magic, that fantasy magical element kind of reminds me of 1991's Hook: of believing in yourself and what we can do and achieve, without being religious. 

And though it is billed as a children's/family film, Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone who are into light-hearted films, or films that have that somewhat feel-good factor, which doesn't detract from what the film's message is trying to evoke. Which is about dealing with loss, grief, change, acceptance and moving forward. That message about believing in yourself to succeed was also a good one to interweave into, as well.

Final Verdict:

This is an imaginative looking, pleasant and charming film and an example of a fantasy film where it's not just the visuals and special effects that make it worth seeing, but for the story and the theme of death that is approached with maturity, sensitivity and understanding that isn't scary and macabre. It makes a telling argument about keeping the magic and wonder alive, especially beyond a person's death. Whether or not we are willing to admit to this. 

That Wonka-esque feel and setting really makes all the difference and appealing to the eyes.

Yet for all the special effects and visuals, it's really the message and the heart of that message that really underpins Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. For that, as well as the performances by the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Jason Bateman and Natalie Portman, this is a fantasy film that despite the lack of action and exciting scenes, it makes up for it with heart and a magical glow that radiates, sparkles and shines throughout. 


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