Move over Willy Wonka, there's a new magical mystery man in town; minus the intrigue or charisma. Dustin Hoffman stars as Mr. Magorium, the 243 year old proprietor of the ultimate toy shop. Through his sorcery the toys, games, and even the store itself have grown lives of their own; making it the number one hang-out for the local kids. But the ageing Mr. Magorium is coming to the end of his magical existence, and must plan for the store's future. When he decides to leave the Emporium to chirpy but unfulfilled manager Mahoney (Portman), the shop begins to protest in no uncertain terms at this change of ownership.
The once technicolour fun-house turns to grey with toys malfunctioning at every turn, threatening to ruin the business. Only Mahoney can save the day, by digging deep and finding her own magical powers. She's helped along the way by hat-collecting loner Eric (Zach Mills) and workaholic accountant Harry (Jason Bateman). And, that's about it. An interesting premise and a good cast somehow run out of steam - and plot - very quickly, in this debut feature from writer/director Zach Helm.
"ULTIMATELY ALL WRAPPING"
Portman and Hoffman are very likeable, bringing an air of normality to the strange world of the Emporium. Zach Mills gives an impressive performance as youngster Eric; managing to tread the fine line between schmaltzy and heart-warming with relative ease. But Bateman is wasted as the cynical Harry, whose flimsy character fails to make any real impact. His comic talents do occasionally get an outlet, but not enough to make this bland film sparkle. Mr. Magorium, as the title would suggest, is the heart of this film; and after his departure it all falls a little flat - leaving no choice but to swiftly wrap up the film. No doubt intended to be a Christmas blockbuster - this pretty looking film is ultimately all wrapping, with nothing much to find inside.
Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is out in the UK on 14 December 2007.