Monday, November 26, 2007

An Enchanted Evening with Mr. Magorium

On occasion, I like to do something fun with one of my kids one-on-one. I feel that extra attention is something they don't get enough now that there are three of them. As inclusive as we try to be, one of them is sometimes left with the short end of the stick during family activities. It's been a while since I've taken either Vicki, my 6 year old, or Zoe, my 3 year old, anywhere.

Thus, this last Friday became Daddy-Daughter Date Day. I gave the girls their choice of movies playing at the local theater. The free movie ticket coupons we have for that theater do a great job at narrowing options. Zoe chose to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium and Vicki chose Enchanted. I can't say either were on the top of my list, but that's not what this was about.

Zoe and I went out first. She was thrilled. She was especially excited to pick out her own candy and had a great time snacking on white cheddar popcorn while we waited for our auditorium to let out and be cleaned. Before long, we were seated comfortably near the middle of the theater with much less of the holiday weekend crowd one might expect. That's what happens when you chose an out-of-the-way, old, and possibly failing theater to attend, but we like it that way.

Zoe loved the movie. She immediately asked as we walked to the car if we could buy it. I still haven't quite convinced her that there is a period of time between a movie showing in the theaters and when it comes out on DVD.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium was a cute and sweet movie. It wasn't great, but entertaining enough. The plot meanders like a quite a bit, with very little background given to the characters. That was okay by them, though, since the time not spent showcasing the zany toy store was spent in characterization.

Dustin Hoffman's Mr. Magorium was naturally well-played. I have the feeling that if they made a prequel featuring some of the adventures he hints at here and there, the producers would have a better movie on their hands. That was probably the most frustrating thing about his character, it would have been nice to know more about where he'd come from. It can be argued, probably successfully, that not knowing adds to his mystery and magic, but since that argument would have to take place between me and myself, I'm just not going to do it. That's a road best left untraveled, thenkyewverrymuch.

Natalie Portman's Molly Mahoney, the store manager and Wonder Emporium bequeathee, was almost, but not quite endearing. There was something about her performance that just didn't sell the character. I wanted to believe that she was a quirky musical genius, but the nervous tick her hands playing a phantom piano of their own accord was actually a little creepy if anything. Justin Bateman's Henry Weston, the accountant Magorium hires to straighten his books before making his exit, was sadly reminiscent of Michael Bluth from Arrested Development. Bateman does a great straight man. The token "cute" kid, Zach Mills, tries really hard, but only manages to reach awkward level on his attempt at being lovable.

As I said, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium was cute. It even made me tear up when Mr. Magorium made his exit, but it could have been so much more. I give this movie twenty-five out of fifty-six escapee bouncy balls on a scale I just made up that doesn't mean anything.

Next up was Enchanted with Vicki. I made a few theater employees do double-takes as I purchased two more tickets for a different movie with a different kid mere minutes after I left with Zoe. I love messing with people's heads. For her part, Vicki was very excited, especially since she and I got to play a video game while waiting for the movie to start. We even came in first place on the racing game we tried out. Gotta start 'em out young, I always say. As with Zoe and Magorium, Vicki loved Enchanted. Despite myself, I wound up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

For those of you impervious to Disney's in-your-face advertising campaigns, Enchanted is about a fairy tale girl (complete with talking animal entourage) banished to the real world by a jealous witch queen intent on preventing marriage between her son, the prince and said girl.

What follows is a completely predictable fish-out-of-water tale as Jaded New York Man (Patrick Dempsey) takes care of Fairy Tale Girl (Amy Adams), Fairy Tale Prince (James Marsden) searches New York for his One True Love™ with the help hindrance of Hapless Henchman (Timothy Spall) and Now-Speechless Chipmunk, and Witch Queen (Susan Sarandon) grows increasingly impatient at the efforts. Can anyone guess the ending? If you guessed that the queen, magically transformed into a dragon, swallows Jaded New York Man, whisks Fairy Tale Prince back to the magic kingdom and rules happily ever after, then you've never seen a Disney movie.

For as predictable as the movie was, there were a surprising amount of amusing bits. My favorite was definitely the Now-Speechless Chipmunk miming the Hapless Henchman's treachery to the Fairy Tale Prince only to have the prince of magical kingdom of Duh conclude that the furry woodland creature was trying to tell him how handsome he was when he slept. Marsden played the clueless prince to the hilt and was infinitely more entertaining than he has been in the X-Men movies. Adams was equally entertaining as the Fairy Tale Girl. Heck, all of the main characters played their roles brilliantly. Perhaps the predictability and stereotypical nature of the characters made it easier for them to hit their marks. I don't know, but it brought the enjoyment level up quite a bit from what I was expecting as I entered the theater.

I give Enchanted fifteen out of twenty toilet-scrubbing New York City rats on a scale I just made up that doesn't mean anything.