Magic movies need to be well-grounded

The Baltimore Sun

Every great magical fantasy contains a critical moment that tests the audience's belief, whether it's the near-death of a fairy in Peter Pan or the death and resurrection of a lion in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It usually comes well into the action, when the creators have already sucked us into a heady mixture of mythology and reverie. When similar movies fizzle, such as the recent The Seeker: The Dark is Rising and today's opening, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, it's often because of impatience: The filmmakers are like antsy little boys, itching to get to "the good stuff," not realizing that the stuff only gets good after it's been seasoned and prepared for.

Magical movies, like poetic dramas, in an odd way need to be tough-minded: For us to suspend our disbelief, they must set out some underlying rule for the marvels, miracles and metaphors they spread out before us. Set in a magic toy store, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium starts out several feet above the ground and never touches terra firma as it lays out the final days of the wonder-working title character.

The movie's one dose of reality comes from a good-hearted accountant. The whimsy grows so thick it's sickening, like sampling all 31 flavors on a single visit to an ice cream shop. But as far as accountant-in-magic-shop movies go (see Fred Claus and Santa Claus: The Movie), Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is the top of the crop.

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