The kids and I went to see this movie the Friday before Thanksgiving, so bear with me as I try to recall some of the more interesting aspects of this film. You may have read that Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is boring, that it is quite strange, and not worth seeing. In light of those negative reviews, I have decided to write a review myself. This is one of the beauties of the internet. ANYONE can put her opinion out there for all the world to read. Here’s mine:
As you may already know, this movie appears to be about a man and his toy store, but that really is only one chapter of the story. The story begins with an introduction to Molly Mahoney, Mr. Magorium’s store manager who is also struggling to complete her first piano concerto. The opening sequence of the film shows Molly working on her composition at her piano, then as she rides the bus to work we see her running her fingers along the back of the seat in front of her as though she were playing her piano. However, she always stops at the same point in the song; she cannot figure out what the next note is supposed to be.
When she arrives at the Emporium, we meet Eric, a young imaginative boy who spends all of his free time at the toy store, but does not have any real friends. Oh, and he collects hats–hundreds of hats. When we meet him he is actually attempting to rescue, without a ladder, one of his favorite hats from the store sign seven feet above him.
Molly enters the store, at which point we are given a short introduction to the magical toy store. Molly turns on lights, opens the register, and tells the store, “Good Morning.” Then, as everything gets moving, she moves to a door that can take her to four or five different rooms. She chooses Mr. Magorium’s apartment, opens the door, and stairs appear. It appears that she is going to wake Mr. Magorium and discuss what will be going on in the store that day, but he has been up all night trying to figure out some strange problem. I can’t even remember what he was talking about, but I do remember the first sight of Dustin Hoffman as Mr. Magorium.
I’ve read some reviews that say Dustin Hoffman is a joke with his fake speech impediment and wild hair and eyebrows, but I think he is wonderful. Of course the lisp is fake: HE’S AN ACTOR! It’s called acting; that’s what actors do. And I found Hoffman’s performance engaging, believable, and altogether perfect for the character. I enjoyed all of his scenes.
As Mr. Magorium is introduced we learn that he is very quirky, very different. He is funny, has a broad vocabulary, is tender, loves his store, and loves Molly Mahoney. He is like a father to her. They talk as he gets ready for the day, which involves various contraptions, animals, and toys, or living toys (think Pee Wee’s Big Adventure). Molly shares with him her feelings of being “stuck.” She was supposed to be this great composer, she held all this promise as a young musical prodigy, but here she is managing a toy store. As she tries to tell Mr. Magorium that she needs to move on, he refuses her resignation and hands her a strange wooden cube that she must figure out how to use to solve all of her problems.
He then begins to introduce the final key character of the film, Henry Weston. Henry is an accountant Mr. Magorium has hired to help him get the store’s finances in order. He explains that he can’t wait to meet him because an accountant sounds like he must be a counting mutant. When Henry, dubbed “Mutant,” comes in later that morning he is characterized like most accountants: Very neat, particular, “what’s the bottom line,” not much interested in fun, a workaholic, and he doesn’t believe in magic.
As Henry and Mr. Magorium are discussing the paperwork, we learn that Mr. Magorium is going to be leaving. The term death is discouraged because Mr. Magorium thinks of it as more like going somewhere else, on another adventure, if you like. He talks about it more like it is an appointment or meeting he has to go to, rather than an ending. So, the characters (with the exception of young Eric) respond with incredulity, while the store throws a fit. Its walls begin to change to ugly colors, the toys begin to act out, and nothing works like it is supposed to. Molly displays her own displeasure over his “leaving” by orchestrating the perfect day of childlike fun (jumping on beds, jumping on bubble wrap, setting all the clocks to 12:00 to hear them ring at the same time, etc.) in hopes of convincing Mr. Magorium that he has so much to live for. But she must learn that having something to live for isn’t the issue; it’s just his time to go. After all, he doesn’t have anymore shoes to wear.
It sounds ridiculous, I know. But I found it all very sweet.
Mr. Magorium encourages Molly to consider his departure as more of the end of a chapter in a book by saying something like, “It’s not the end, just turn the page and start another chapter.”
Well, needless to say, his departure comes, and Molly and the store do not handle it at all like Mr. Magorium told them to. The store and all its contents turn black, while Molly tries to sell the store and gets a job playing the piano in a hotel lobby.
As with most children’s films, it all gets worked out in the end and everyone lives happily ever after. I want to try and explain some other elements I noticed.
There are many spiritual elements in this film. They are not downplayed at all, either. The spiritual is a major theme to the movie. I was really surprised by it! While I disagreed with most of this film’s perspectives of life and death, I would not discourage anyone from seeing it.
The use of time
When Molly and Mr. Magorium visit the clock shop to synchronize all the clocks, they must wait 37 seconds before they all chime. Mr. Magorium says that they will not wait, rather they will breathe, reflect, regenerate, (insert your own mystical word), think, etc. Our time is never wasted. We are never simply waiting. We are always doing something. We just need to realize it.
Early on in the film, we are introduced to the idea of an inner sparkle, “something bigger trying to get out.” Molly expresses that she feels stuck and seems desperate for anyone to notice something special about her, something to tell her that she is more than what she feels like she is. We all want to believe there is something special about us, something that sets us apart from the rest of humanity. The popular idea is that we have to believe in ourselves and have self-confidence.
Christianity, however, does not teach us to look within ourselves to find what we’re looking for. There is not a divine spark lying within which we must fan into flame. We are not encouraged to look within ourselves for strength. Rather, God exists outside of us. He calls us to believe in him and he gives gifts, talents, and his power to be used for his glory, not our own.
Life and Life after death/departure/moving on
When asked where he is going, Mr. Magorium does not know what to say. He has no idea. All we know is that he is excited about it and he knows when he will be leaving. Molly is so upset about this, and his attitude about it is so unlike her own, that she takes him to the hospital to have him checked out by a doctor. She can’t understand why he would be dying if he isn’t sick. Death is a very bad thing in her mind. Mr. Magorium, however, is not the least bit upset or afraid. He simply tells everyone (including the store) goodbye, and the scene fades out. Then, we are at his funeral. This was the strangest part of the film for me. No one speaks. Hundreds of people show up, and the line of people at the graveside takes the form of a question mark. At least I thought they all looked like a giant, black question mark.
This is the only part of the movie I really did not like. As I sat there crying in the theater (because I didn’t want Mr. Magorium to die, either), I was reminded of how wonderful the gospel is. They left the gospel out their movie, so Mr. Magorium’s loved ones were left without any shred of hope for him or themselves. He was just gone. His chapter in the story was over and “everybody just needs to move on in their own stories. You better live every moment with imagination and magic, because it’s all you’ve got.” They just seemed to move on as though they never knew him. No one wanted to talk about him. No one wanted to remember him.
There are other elements, too. This review is already too long, though. If you see it, then let me know what you think of the parallels between the paper airplane and Molly’s block, the “life” of the store and belief, the dial-able door, and your opinion of the activities Molly chose for their last day together (How would you spend your last day? What is worth living for?).
Like I said, just because I disagree with much of the film’s ideas regarding spiritual things, I would not discourage anyone from seeing it. It is clean for your whole family to see and it will definitely spark excellent discussions around your dinner table. You could talk about the gospel, faith, self-confidence vs. confidence in God, eternal life, heaven and hell, gifts and abilities, magic, how we should conduct ourselves on earth, how we ought to consider death, how we mourn for loved ones who have died, the importance of sharing the gospel with others.
I welcome your comments about this movie and my review.