NATALIE Portman is radiant, fresh and completely wasted as Molly Mahoney, a former musical prodigy who’s lost her magic and now works in a toy shop. The owner of the shop is the Mr Magorium of the title, played by Dustin Hoffman with a rictus smile, a lisp and an Einstein hairdo. He’s been around a while (243 years) and his shop looks Dickensian, dwarfed and crowded in by skyscrapers. He thinks his time has come to move on and hand his wondrous empire to Molly, who, being out of touch with her magical side, would rather sell to some property developer.
The tale is typical Christmas fare, although mercifully there are no baubles or reindeer to be seen. There is a zebra, but no explanation is given. There’s also a chronicling, toy-making slave in the basement, but for that there is no explanation either. And then there’s eccentric little Eric and an emotionally stunted accountant to complete the picture.
There’s much that’s fun, and there’s much more that could have been fun if there’d been some resolve to imbue the story with more than a few treats out of a clown’s repertoire. Hoffman and Portman are too dynamic a team to be supported by a flimsy little feelgood story that has a bit of flash and a bit of fluff but nothing more. **