When I heard that Zach Helm, the scriptwriter of Stranger Than Fiction was going to be making a movie I was really excited. The prospect sounded like the possibility of the next Wes Anderson showing up on the scene. So I waited eagerly for a scrap of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Some Russian site had supposedly put up an early trailer for it which was promptly taken down and the months passed. And then voila. AOL has the trailer. And I saw. And I was sickened.
Now granted this could be all one big mistake. Trailers often misrepresent movies and the trailer for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is basically a collection of brief gags and special effects. So it could all be a big mistake but I somehow doubt it.
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is precisely what you should expect from Walden Media. It’s big, bright, colorful, aimed at kids and utterly souless. That’s right, I said soulless. For a movie that’s all about believing in magic, this thing is right up there with The Polar Express as a collection of computer special effects driven cutesy gimmicks that’s as phony as a Hallmark Gold Crown Store, a collection of fake sentiment with no sincerity behind it.
Dustin Hoffman doesn’t work much these days which makes you wonder why he took a role where his primary line seems to be imitating Robin Williams or at best, Gene Wilder. Top that off with a really fake looking grey wig and pancake makeup and you want to weep. Natalie Portman manages to somehow look like a 12 year old boy in every scene. (Well more so than she usually does.) Only Jason Bateman looks anything remotely resembling human.
All told Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium looks like every lame pre-Christmas movie that gets run on television. It may not be about Christmas but it has the same hollow cheapness to it. Walden Media’s mission to provide movies for kids may be noble but their movies are just awful. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is no doubt supposed to be this year’s Night at the Museum but unlike Night, it seems determined to telegraph every single moment. Maybe Zach Helm has yet to show what he can do.