Movie Review: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

“Your life is an occasion, rise to it.”

One of my favorite movies as a child was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder. I was fascinated by the colorful factory and by the thought of being Charlie and being able to inherit the factory. As I’ve grown older my love for this movie has stayed with me and I now love it for the heart shown in the ending and also for the quick-fire, witty dialogue delivered by Gene Wilder and all of his subtle humor. To me, this movie has all of the ingredients of a film that should be loved by children and adults for years and years to come.

I couldn’t help thinking about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as I sat in the theater watching Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Initially, I wasn’t very interested in seeing this movie. The thought of Dustin Hoffman trying to be a light and bubbly toymaker didn’t do a whole lot for me. But as soon as he appeared on the screen I realized that he wasn’t playing Dustin Hoffman as a light and bubbly toymaker, he was playing Ed Wynn as a light and bubbly toymaker—and that made all the difference. Most people will probably remember Ed Wynn as the eccentric Uncle Albert in Disney’s Mary Poppins, or as the voice of the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is about Molly Mahoney, Played by Natalie Portman, who is at a crossroads of her life because after years of working as the manager of a magical toy store, she’s feeling at a loss for finding the magic inside herself. As a child prodigy pianist, she’s frustrated that she can’t find the inspiration to create her own musical masterpieces. So she decides to leave the toys store to pursue her music just as Mr. Magorium announces that after over 200 years of life, he’s ready to depart and will be leaving the Wonder Emporium to Molly.

What follows is a wonderful story about finding wonder inside yourself, living life with no regrets, and finding fun in everything you do. Of course, that’s what I got out of the movie, I’m sure there may be different lessons for you.

When I first saw this movie advertised, I assumed it was based on a classic children’s book that I had only vaguely heard of like so many family movies are these days. I was very surprised when I saw that this movie was written and directed by Zach Helm only, and wasn’t based on anything. Helm has a modest list of credits on which include writing Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell—a rather unusual movie that I really enjoyed. It’s nice to see such a creative and imaginative writer and director and I’ll be sure to watch for anything else with Zach Helm in the credits.

Whether it’s because I was thoroughly enjoying the movie or if it was actually flawed I’m not sure, but when it came time for Mr. Magorium and the Wonder Emporium to end, I wasn’t ready. Sometimes movies end too quickly after the climax and I regret that more time wasn’t taking to wrap things up. That’s really the only complaint I have with this film. There were many things that I was hoping to see wrapped up that weren’t. All I can hope is that this is a story that will have a next chapter.

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