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Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium


Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Zach Mills, Jason Bateman, Ted Ludzik

Director: Zach Helm

The eponymous emporium is a magic toyshop, where toys move and things fly around by themselves. The owner, Mr M (Hoffman, with a swept-up hairdo, tippy-toe walk and a lisp), claims to be 243 years old. His assistant Mahoney (a nice performance by Portman) would like to be a classical pianist and is forever trying to finish a symphony. She is thinking of another line of work.

A third resident at the fun- and child-filled store, which is sandwiched between sky-high blocks much like the house in Stuart Little, is nine-year-old Eric (Mills, a winning, natural kid), a loner with a vast collection of hats. Currently, one has blown off his head and on to a tall post. 'It must be seven feet at least,' guesses Mahoney, as Eric prepares to retrieve it. 'Do you think,' he asks, 'I should take a running start?

Anyway, Mr M, deeming that his time on Earth is over, calls in an accountant (Bateman) to go through the books before leaving the store to Mahoney (who doesn't want it). Alas, such trivial matters as tax, or a city business licence, have never concerned Mr M.

The first half-hour of this film is indeed magical, with the store a kaleidoscopic wonderland whirl of activity. Once the store gets the sulks, and goes grey at the walls at the prospect of its beloved owner's departure, and the action moves outside, the story runs out of steam quite quickly. Still, it's a charming concept, and the end restores fizzy delight to us as well as the emporium. And kids may shed a tear as Hoffman tells Portman 'Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.' Cute credits at the end include one for 'People who created things that weren't there'.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour by deluxe.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Dec 2007