Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (20th Century Fox, G)

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film_magorium_sm.jpgI don't know how one acts bored without being boring to watch, but I do know when the distinction hasn't been made.








The holidays are the perfect time for a solid kids' movie. One filled with the magic, heart and charm that seems naturally evident in the season when you really are a child. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium wants badly to be that film. The film that gets marathon showings every Christmas Eve; the film that you always remember seeing for the first time and get goose bumps when you think back to how it made you feel.

Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is a sprightly and spirited toy maker who runs his store with a light hand. Everything is simple for Magorium until he decides to leave the emporium to trusted store manager Molly (Natalie Portman). Having had no idea that their friend and mentor was planning to leave (and soon), Molly and the magical store are thrown into a rebellious tizzy trying to keep Magorium with them.

I have to say that I was hoping Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium would give me that happy, tingly feeling I get when I catch A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV. I really wanted to sit in the dark and let the magic of imagination surround me. And while the emporium is clearly filled with interesting new things, the movie itself is not.

A few little things mess with the film's flow. The scenes outside of the emporium feel too real-world for the atmosphere and lessen the impact of the cool, magic-toy stuff. And all of the "chapter" breaks, with their cutesy names, muck up the pacing of an already kind of slow film.

Often a good actor can elevate so-so material and help make the whole project work better than it should, but I find that that didn't apply here. Portman's Molly is a young woman feeling stuck in her life and trying to find the spark that she used to have. It was hard to watch as she sleepwalked through her performance. Not only does Molly not have a spark, but neither does Portman. She appeared to be completely bored most of the time. I don't know how one acts bored without being boring to watch, but I do know when the distinction hasn't been made.

Hoffman, as with Portman, is usually quite fun to watch, but here his characterization felt incredibly forced. He chose to give Magorium an odd lisp that I could never get past. Magorium is so jolly all the time that, with the addition of the speech impediment, he just seemed like one of those guys who gets drunk and suddenly loves everything and everyone. And then, when you're trying to take his car keys away, he starts babbling about believing in the power of a block of wood and how his pet zebra helped him make snacks the other day. It's all fun and games until he throws up on your shoes, kids. | Adrienne Jones

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