The new kids flick is nothing but a rehash of Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory, with toys instead of chocolates

By Alejandro Arbona / ShowBizCafe
Updated November 15, 2007

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Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman

Script: Zach Helm

Director: Zach Helm

Rated: G

Grade: D+

Mr. Magorium (Hoffman) owns a magical toy store, but the character is little more than a remake of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory…and a much watered-down remake at that – much less entertaining and considerably more annoying.

Magorium decides it's finally his time to die, and sets out to bequeath his store to the manager, young Molly Mahoney (Portman), a premise also too reminiscent of Wonka's search for the ideal child to take over his candy empire. But Mahoney doesn't want to inherit the store or even continue to work there at all. She's disenchanted with her stalled life, and wants to return to her lifelong passion of piano playing and music composition.

The movie's real problem isn't that the ending is predictable, because these types of stories always end that way. The greatest strike against Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is that it is so similar to the 1971 Wonka movie, but the classic chocolate flick is vastly superior. Wilder's Wonka was a complex, lifelike character, prone to error or fits of rage, which signaled that perhaps the characters wouldn't actually live happily ever after. Mr. Magorium, however, is so beatific, of such infinite wisdom and so supernaturally perfect, that it robs the story of any risk that he might have miscalculated his aim, which leaves no room for a surprise factor for the audience.