In writer-director Zach Helm's whimsical 2007 film, MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM, veteran actor Dustin Hoffman plays the title character, a 243-year-old toy-store owner who is ready to pass his enchanted business on to his beloved assistant, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman). However, when Molly, a former composer and pianist, has doubts about taking over the (literally) magical store, and an uptight accountant (Jason Bateman) appears to assess the establishment, the many inhabitants of the Wonder Emporium begin to rebel, resulting in a chaotic situation that can be fixed only with the help of a shy, lonely boy (Zach Mills).
A first-time director best known for his inventive STRANGER THAN FICTION screenplay, Helm ably--ahem--helms EMPORIUM, which clearly nods to the WONKA and TOY STORY movies without seeming derivative. Always one to dive gamely into a quirky role (see TOOTSIE, RAIN MAN, HOOK, etc.), Hoffman makes Magorium both silly and endearing, while Portman charms as his earnest protégé, and Bateman provides an enjoyable level of skepticism while enduring the nickname "The Mutant." Although the film's playful quality could veer toward excess, its thoughtful script and able actors allow it to stand out as a highly entertaining production.
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