By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is Mr. Magorium's Wonder Dumborium, a pastiche of clich?s about "believing" in magic in order for the toys in this wonderland to come alive. Although Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is 243 years old, almost as old as the actor, he seems able to live another couple of centuries except that he's inexplicably decided to die on Saturday.
If this sounds like Harold and Maude without the sex, it is, because like Maude, Magorium is voluntarily outta here--Maude so Harold can go out and love some more and Magorium so store manager, composer Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) can inherit the emporium. Beyond some sentimental notions about appreciating the wonder of life, this lifeless fluff mines no new Christmas-spirit themes and succeeds in making even toys boring.
After Portman's wicked turn in Closer, I can't believe she'd accept an insipid role where she puts on a fake smile while vigorously conducting the magic orchestra of color-saturated toys (Buzz Lightyear is light years away). She's much better at pole dancing, and Hoffman is much more palatable as a rain man or a clueless college grad.
Let me call my buddy, Bad Santa, for some laughs because this languid Christmas comedy is a wonder it's been released.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com