Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A trip to a Wonder filled place

This Advent our family is making a conscious effort to spend a little time together each day. It may be a reading a story together, or making Christmas cookies, or coloring our own Christmas cards. Last Friday our activity was going to a movie. This year's holiday offerings are a little slim. I didn't feel comfortable taking our boys to see Fred Clause. And The Golden Compass was a no go for Lisa. So we settled on Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium.

No one is giving this movie a good review. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 38% (out of 100% I assume). Most were complaining about that it was too sweet. One of the reviewers even said that people wouldn't stay to the end. I am going to disagree.

This is perhaps one of the best movies that I have seen in a long time.

No, the acting is not stellar. Dustin Hoffman was a lovable, sort of off-beat character. Natalie Portman is a composer caught between the world of magic and reality. Jason Bateman is firmly entrenched in the real world of accounting. None of them gave Oscar quality performances. But I was drawn into their personalities.

Neither was the plot all that inspiring. It is the story of a magic toy store, the people whose lives are connected to the toy store and each other, and about believing in one self. You knew where the movie was going almost as if you had the script.

What was truly remarkable about this movie was the subtle messages that were being shown in how the characters were living out their lives together. I'm going to ruin the movie's story for you. But you still need to watch it.

Mr. Magorium is at least 275 years old. He has made toys for world leaders. He has lived a long and filled life. At one point he says in the movie, "I found a pair of shoes that I really liked. So I bought a life time supply... I have on my last pair of shoes." And the shoes are worn leather with holes in the sole. We find out that Mr. Magorium is leaving. Not the toy store or even the city. He is, in effect, dying.

This movie deals with death and dying in a wonderful, if not completely believable, way. He is in control of his life. He chooses to face the life he has led with joy and fondness. There are no regrets or ill-will about failures that cannot be changed. He admits to making mistakes, but you still live life.

Those who are around him accept the news of his leaving without much dismay, except for Mahoney (Natalie Portman), the manager of the toy store. She is very close to Mr. Magorium. She cannot accept his leaving/dying. She does everything in her power to change the events, to put off facing the hard truth. But she cannot change his decision. He has to leave/die. But he leaves by his choosing.

Another very powerful subtext to this movie is love. Oddly enough, there was no real romance in this movie. Portman's and Jason Bateman's characters show a little attraction to each other. But there is no deep romantic bond seeking. No, of the 4 principle roles in this movie, there is no blood or romantic connection. But you here characters telling one another that they love them and displaying love in unconditional ways. It was refreshing to see people express love in "authentic" situations and not forcing love into cliched plots such as dying parent/child or ritual mating sequences.

I described this movie to someone as Willy Wonka/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory without all the weird, creepy stuff. This was a great movie. No foul language. No violence. No awkward romantic moments. Great character interactions. An amazing portrayal of accepting death.

People, please see this movie.