This film should not make me feel as confused and bored as it does. The fantasy children’s film from director Zach Helm and stars Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman and Zach Mills was mediocre from start to finish. This movie should have been some sort of grand adventure, or at the very least a heartwarming tale to put on when you are older and nostalgic; unfortunately, it isn’t.
The story revolves primarily around Portman as Molly Mahoney, an ameauter pianist who is employed at Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. She is working on her magnum opus; a concert that will give her life direction and meaning as she currently feels stuck at her job. Her employer is an ancient, childish, eccentric, magical man, played by Hoffman, and who gives her a block of wood and tells her that they are on an adventure together. The delicate balance of sanity that the store’s employees hold is shattered when Mr. Magorium decides that it is time for him to die. The sentient store then throws a temper tantrum and physically assaults people and creates lemurs that terrorize the store.
The movie is designed for little kids. Very little kids. The story is corny to the point of feeling bland and uninteresting. There are very few actual risks taken in the film. Everything feels very calculated in order to get you to feel a sense of whimsy , or to think that something is funny, but it just consistently falls flat. Even the actors seem calculated. They are all very talented and there’s some decent directing but so much of the film falls just short of being enjoyable. Much like the sets and the CGI, the rest of the film just screams “artificial” no matter how charming all of the actors are.
There is really nothing very harmful in the movie. Even if the message, that life is what you make of it, is rather muddled consistently Molly felt trapped and stuck in her job. Does this mean that you should stick with your job even if it is not at all related to what you want to do? Does this mean that you will create an amazing symphony if you just stick with the grinding day to day objective that is not at all related to music? Does it mean that you will ultimately feel trapped no matter where you go so you might at well stay in one place and make the best of it?
The message is very important to young adults at this time in their lives when many are starting to have an emotional crisis about the future and asking the important questions, like “who am I?” “where am I going?” and “what will I be?” Other movies have already asked these questions and answered them better. This movie isn’t trying to be harmful and there is effort in some of the set design; entire sets were turned into shades of gray, a tasteful funeral service was portrayed , and the actors are pouring every ounce of charm that they have into these roles. However, in the end, the movie falls into the category of being a poorly written kids film. It could have been spit shined and worked on a little more to avoid some cliches or uninteresting moments that lead nowhere. But unfortunately, it was not. Kids will probably enjoy it and forget about it. There is little to nothing for adults here.
2 out of 5 stars