A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sweet, family-friendly fantasy is brimming with product placement, though most of it's in context (you can't really make a movie about a magic toy store without toys...). Plus, the positive messages about friendship, trust, finding your potential, and believing in yourself overshadow most of the branding. There isn't any violence, but the store does throw a temper tantrum that sends toys flying after patrons (the red walls also fade to gray, and the toys lose their spark and color). A significant death, while presented in an idealized way to fit in with the tone of the film, is handled gently and poignantly; there are some sad scenes, but it's peaceful overall (though really young kids may need further explanation of how death really works). A young boy is looked at as a loner and has trouble making friends with other kids.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), the 243-year-old owner of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, has decided that his time in the store has run its course. He attempts to hand his life's work over to his manager, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) -- to both her dismay and that of the store itself. The magic building proceeds to throw something of a temper tantrum -- toys caroming off the shelves, walls fading from vibrant red to sad gray. Meanwhile, stuffy accountant Henry (Jason Bateman), a non-believer in all things magic, has been brought in to help get Mr. Magorium's finances in order so he can leave the store in good standing. With a little help from Mahoney and 9-year-old resident loner/store-clerk Eric (Zach Mills), Henry finds that life doesn't have to be all work and no play.
Is it any good?
There's definitely plenty here to captivate kids' imaginations. With a central character who feels a lot like a kiddie version of one of Tim Burton's quirky creations, Zach Helm's MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM is a fun movie that will delight young kids -- and leave their parents fielding requests for lots of holiday toys (preferably magic ones). The unlikely friendships formed in the film create a story filled with magical wonderment and strong messages about believing in yourself and others.
But while the movie has some exceptionally sweet and tender moments, it falls short on really delivering the magic that's referred to so often in characters' conversations throughout the film. It has a lot of strengths -- a talented cast, a fabulous set, impressive special effects -- though it somehow doesn't quite add up to a true childhood classic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about product placement and commercial tie-ins. Did your kids notice how many toys were featured in the movie? Why were some more obvious than others? Where else have your kids noticed ads and other marketing for this movie? Also, why do you think Eric felt that he was different than the other kids? Did your child relate to his character? Families can also use the movie as an opportunity to talk about death. What does it mean? How do you cope with it? Is dying always sad? Why or why not? How is it different in real life than the way it is in the movie?
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