Dustin the turkey
EXCUSE me. Where is the rest of this film? Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – the title alone could rot teeth – is mostly taken up with the valedictory experiences of a magical toy vendor, born some two and a half centuries ago. Within minutes of the film beginning, we are asked to feel sad that the old geezer, most of whose “enchanted” toys have been product placed by Fisher Price, is about to shuffle off to the great romper room in the sky.
Hang on a moment. We’ve just met the bloke. Even if he weren’t so brain-meltingly irritating, we would hardly be likely to shed tears at his passing. As things stand, Dustin Hoffman, all comedy wig and lobotomy lisp, makes such an irritating boob out of the fellow that most children will happily perform jigs on his untended
grave when he finally passes on.
There is, to be fair, enough visual invention in the picture to suggest that director Zach Helm has a half-way decent family entertainment within him.
Natalie Portman, more androgynous than ever, appears as Mr Magorium’s eager assistant. Jason Bateman plays the accountant who, archetypically uptight at first, is eventually won over to irresponsibility by a cheeky young employee of the store (Zach Mills, charming). The real star of the film is, however, the shop itself, which, featuring giant balls, mobiles made of living fish and gliders that fly forever, is sufficiently well conceived to distract from its flat digital architecture.
Nothing, however, will persuade canny children that they are being offered anything more than a perfunctory knock-off of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, only those naive enough to appreciate the gift of a Z-Box 360 (North Korea’s finest) will leave the cinema satisfied.