Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium intrigued me from the first time I saw its movie trailer. Dustin Hoffman playing a quirky old coot in a somewhat fantastical setting? Sounded a lot like “Hook” to me, and I enjoyed that one, so I figured Magorium would be up to snuff as well. And to top it off, you’re going to put Hoffman alongside Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman? Sure, I’ll check out that film. Apparently, I was alone.
To say Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium released to lukewarm results would be too kind. The movie didn’t exactly shine on its opening weekend, debuting at fifth, and to date it’s only brought in $32 million. Naturally, Twentieth Century Fox hoped the Blu-ray debut of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium would re-capture some revenue, or at least capture the imaginations and checkbooks of people who dodged the film’s theatrical release. However, the Fox team responsible for this Blu-ray release clearly wasn’t a bunch of betting folks, because this is one Blu-ray Disc that got the studio’s cold shoulder.
First things first: the plot — because really, that’s all you’ve got. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium has a creative and fun premise, which makes it all the more disappointing that its Blu-ray Disc fails to deliver. Dustin Hoffman plays Mr. Magorium, a toy shop owner who’s several hundred years old and lays claim to owning the world’s only “magic” toy shop. Plastic soldiers move on their own, balls bounce of their own free will, stuffed animals reach out proactively for hugs…basically, Mr. Magorium’s toy store is alive, as is all the merchandise within it.
When Mr. Magorium realizes he’s about to die (because he’s almost worn out his last pair of shoes), he decides to leave the store to his trusty assistant, played by Natalie Portman. But first, the crazy old man and his reluctant heir must see what Jason Bateman, who plays an accountant, can dig up while during his audit of Mr. Magorium’s finances. At this point the store — yes, the store — realizes something is amiss and throws a series temper tantrums ranging from making its paint turn black to making the toys terrorize the children inside. Ultimately, Portman and Bateman fall in love, Bateman re-discovers his inner child, Magorium dies, and everything magically turns out great.
Except, that is, for this Blu-ray Disc. You see, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is a 94-minute movie with decently saturated AVC video and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio (which is almost wasted on the film’s environmental audio and dialogue). But that’s it. Aside from trailers for Eragon, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Night at the Museum and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, there is quite nothing else on this disc other than the FBI warning and menus. No bonus features. No commentary track. Not even theatrical trailers for the film itself. Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada.
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is cute and entertaining, and Hoffman turns in a surprisingly good role as the wacky-yet-insightful Mr. Magorium. But Portman doesn’t deliver nearly the performance she did in Closer, and her character’s development has such glaring holes that it’s hard not to question whether Fox cut the writers off halfway through filming. As for Bateman, well, let’s just say he should stick to Arrested Development.
A few bonus features might have resurrected some of the film’s Blu-ray mojo — but there are none. The AVC video and lossless master audio, too, are good but not great, with nothing particularly strong or weak to say about either. Perhaps this is all a sign of Fox waving the white flag, almost as if the studio were saying “please buy this Blu-ray movie, please! But just in case you don’t, we’re not going to throw much money into it.” Well, that’s our feeling about this Blu-ray Disc, too: don’t throw too much money into it. It’s kind of cute in a fantastical laugh-at-the-old-crazy-dude sort of way, but really, you can do that at the local bus depot, too.
– Jonas Allen