Who's in It:
Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zach Mills
The Basics: Mr. Magorium (Hoffman, with dorky hair and a lisp that he somehow pulls off without making you want to choke him) is a 243-year-old toy-store owner. Add to this odd fact the way that his toy store is magic and the toys are alive, responding to the disposition of the employees. And when it's time for Magorium to pass away (he seems to know it's coming soon and is actually really OK with it), he wants to give the store to his favorite employee (Portman).
What's the Deal? I'll confess. I was dreading this film. Movies aimed at children have become so hip and knowing and harsh that it seems like there's almost no more room left in the world for a gentle, G-rated movie that isn't designed to sell tie-in merch, doesn't have smart-assy kid characters who know more than everyone else, isn't full of gross product placement for random other stuff (they do bounce on a Simmons mattress in another store here, but whatever). So I'm stunned to report that this one goes out of its way to be none of those awful things. The worst you can say about it is that it's goofy and whimsical, but its heart is squarely in the right place, it gets the balance right in just about every way, and it earns its sweetly moving finale without pouring on the goo. That's almost a miracle.
Best Toy: A sock monkey that just wants to be loved. But I don't want to give too much of that away. I just never thought I'd have my coal-black heart touched by a needy sock monkey until I saw this. Maybe I'm in a weakened state from having to watch too many other terrible films. Anyway, now I love sock monkeys.
MVP of Every Movie He's in Lately: Bateman, as the accountant who can't feel joy, keeps everything from floating off into Candyland. He's not as gleefully evil as Kevin Spacey in Fred Claus (and they're pretty much the same character, even if Fred is a pain to watch for the most part), but he's a dry touch of real-world disbelief in a movie that needs someone to be that guy or there'd be no trusting it.