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Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is a 2007 film written and directed by Zach Helm. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman and Zach Mills. The screenplay is the first that Zach Helm wrote when hired as a contract writer at 20th Century Fox, but it remained unfilmed until Helm was able to buy the script back after Stranger than Fiction was made.

Plot

Eccentric, 243-year-old Mr. Edward Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) owns and manages a magical toy shop. The shop has many quirks, including animated toys, a ledger that can bring to the purchase counter any toy on command in alphabetical order known as the Big Book, and a doorknob that, when rotated, changes the interior of a magic room to four different options known as the door of rooms. Both the building and the toys change their appearance and behavior according to the shifting emotions of the shop itself. Besides Mr. Magorium, the shop's employees include his assistant Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman), a pianist and aspiring composer; and his biographer Bellini, a strongman who lives in the shop's basement and sleeps with a doll. The only regular customer is a lonely young boy named Eric, who has a habit of befriending squirrels; Mahoney is apparently his only human friend, and he is cherished in a paternal fashion by Mr. Magorium.

Mr. Magorium suddenly announces that although he is not ill, he intends to "leave" — that is, to die — and to leave the shop to Mahoney. In preparation for his departure, he hires accountant (which is a cross between a counter and a mutant) Henry Weston (Jason Bateman), who is nicknamed "Mutant" because of his job, to organize the shop's paperwork. Among the records are numerous neglected financial difficulties, long ignored by Mr. Magorium, and records of transactions with historical figures such as Thomas Edison. Weston's dedication to his work makes him unpopular with the children who visit the shop, including Eric, and Mahoney dislikes him for his skepticism towards the shop's magical powers.

In response to its founder's decision to leave, the shop throws a tantrum, frightening away customers of all ages. (Some are still in trouble). Worried about Mr. Magorium's plans, Mahoney rushes him to the hospital, where she convinces doctors that Mr. Magorium's professed belief in magic is a result of delusions due to his poor health and imminent death. He remains in the hospital overnight, surrounded by a backdrop of stars organized by Eric, and released the next day since there is nothing physically wrong with him. Meanwhile, Eric befriends Henry Weston and introduces him to Eric's extensive hat collection, which the two play with until discovered by Eric's mother.

Mahoney attempts to prevent Mr. Magorium's departure by showing him the joys of life, but his mind is unchanged and he dies peacefully following a heartfelt conversation with her, ending his life by sending a letter to Molly and launching a paper aeroplane, trapping himself in a coffin with an endless inside where it appears to simply trap him in an ordinary coffin. Many children and adults including his pet zebra Mortiner attend his funeral. The store reacts to Mr. Magorium's death by darkening itself and refusing to show its magic.

Believing herself to be unworthy of owning the toy store, Mahoney puts it up for sale. Eric attempts to convince Henry to buy the shop with him; Henry refuses, but visits Mahoney to persuade her against selling the store. As they talk, Mahoney is holding a wooden cube (a "Congreve cube") that Mr. Magorium had previously given her, along with the task of finding a use for it. When Mahoney finally confesses her faith in the store and its magic, the block suddenly springs to life, flying around the store. Henry faints with shock; when he awakes, Mahoney tells him it was just a dream and that she’s still intending to sell the shop.

Henry tells Mahoney that the store's magic comes from her and that she only needs to believe in herself. Suddenly, Mahoney hears a tune, and begins playing along with it on an imaginary piano; as she does so, the shop and its magic are revived. Mahoney and the toys dance together in colorful celebration while Henry finally allows the store's magic to embrace him as part of the staff.

Cast

  • Dustin Hoffman as Mr. Edward Magorium, a toy impresario, a wonder aficionado, and an avid shoe wearer
  • Natalie Portman as Molly Mahoney, Store Manager and Owner
  • Jason Bateman as Henry "Mutant" Weston, the Accountant
  • Zach Mills as Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector
  • Ted Ludzik as Bellini, the Bookbuilder Born in the Basement


Production

Filming started in late March 2006 and continued to June 6, 2006 in Torontomarker.

The movie was produced by FilmColony's Richard N. Gladstein and Gang of Two's James Garavente and financed by Walden Media.

According to an interview with Zach Helm on Regis and Kelly, the name of the shop’s proprietor was derived from Zach's cousin, New Jerseymarker native Allen Magory. The phraseology "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" was commonly employed as a jest between Helm and Magory as kids, long before the writing of any screenplay.

A cameo as “just a shopper” in the emporium marked the first major theatrical appearance of Kermit the Frog since 1999's Muppets from Space.

Novelization

Reaction

The premiere of Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium, attended by Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman, also doubled as a fundraising event with tickets having been made available to the public. Funds raised at the event were donated to the Barnardo's children's charity and other UK-based charities. The film was released in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker on November 16, 2007 and grossed $9.6 million in 3,164 theaters its opening weekend, ranking #5 at the box office. It went on to gross $32.1 million in the U.S. and a further $35.4 million in the rest of the world which gives the film a total of box office return of $67.5 million.

Critical reception

The film received negative to mixed reviews from critics. As of July 12, 2008 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 36% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 119 reviews, with the consensus among negative critics that "colorful visuals and talented players can't make up for a bland story." On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 48 out of 100, based on 26 reviews. Peter Travers (of Rolling Stone) declared the film the year's Worst Family Film on his list of the Worst Movies of 2007. However, in recognition of the fact that it was "aimed directly at very young children" (along with the fact that the movie teaches children death), William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer observed its "unforced and exceedingly gentle humor, its imaginative but never-quite-excessive production design and its ingratiating and surprisingly detailed performances -- especially by Portman and Bateman -- gradually break down one's cynical defenses". Roger Ebert described it as “a charming enough little movie, and probably the younger you are, the more charming”.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on March 4, 2008.

References

  1. Mr. Magorium’s Zach Helm
  2. Travers, Peter, (December 19, 2007) "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
  3. :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (xhtml)


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