For everything there is a season, and a time
for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
Although the wonderfully realized magical toy store steals the show at times, the slight story is well dramatized by the talented cast. The slight plot revolves around whether Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) will accept her legacy from the Emporium’s owner Mr. Edward Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), but it could also be viewed and discussed as a parable centering on accepting and preparing for death. This latter might sound morbid at first, but the film is anything but that
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, sandwiched in between two towering Manhattan skyscrapers is like the real F.W. Schwartz raised to nth degree, filled with colorful magical toys that fly, interact, and run on roads and train tracks throughout the story to the delight of the hordes of children who flock to it each day. Later, we see that even the Emporium itself is alive, but that will have to wait a while. Mr. Edward Magorium, 243 years old and feeling his age, has presided over the store for well over a hundred years. When he tells his store manager Molly Mahoney that he intends to leave she thinks that he means he will retire, but he tells her not that, but that it is time for his life to end. he is calm about this, anticipating that there is more in store beyond death that also will prove adventuresome.
Wishing to leave the store to her, he has called in bookkeeper Henry Weston (Jason Bateman) to bring his accounts up to date so that everything will be in order for transference to Molly. When Henry fails to see any of the magic happening around him, Edward gives him the nickname of “the Mutant.” Molly is very upset by all of this, refusing to accept the store and imploring Edward to stay. She had been a child prodigy pianist and composer whose career had ended abruptly when she lost her nerve and had fled the stage. She tries to work on a composition and plays background music at a fancy hotel when she is not managing the Emporium. The thought of being entirely responsible for the magical store overwhelms her.
The other major character in the story 9 years-old Eric Applebaum (Zach Mills), who collects hats and spends all of his spare time at the Emporium. He, of course, can see the magic, roots for Molly to accept the inheritance, and tries to befriend the nerdy Henry. As the time for Edward to leave, the Emporium starts to go haywire, its bright red walls turning grey and black, and the toys going berserk. Not even Eric can coax the Slinky to descend the toy stairs, the coiled wire toy refusing to perform. The store becomes so chaotic that the scared children rush outside, and Edward has to close it down.
Will Molly regain her confidence enough to accept the store; and will Eric be able to reach the withdrawn Henry and awaken his inner child? Silly questions, of course, as there are no surprises in the formulaic plot, but it is fun watching what we know will happen unfold—and there is always that toy store with so much happening in it that it would take several viewings to catch it all. And Mr. Magorium’s view of death , though not explicitly Christian, nonetheless is worth examining and discussing.
Contains possible spoilers.
1) What do you think of the toy shop? Has there been a magic place for you, perhaps when you were a child?
2) When Henry Weston says “It’s just a shop,” what does he miss around him? How is he like those who don’t “listen to the music” in August Rush?
3) What effect does Eric have on Henry? How do babies and children often have this effect on adults who pay attention to them? How is persistence a key factor in their relationship? Compare to Henry’s development to what Jesus said about what is necessary in order to enter his kingdom—see Matt. 19:13-14 & 18:1-6.
4) What is Molly’s problem? When have you suffered from a bout of lack of confidence? Who was like Edward Margorium in leading you out of it?
5) How does Edward Margorium view his death? What seems to be the basis of this? How is his view similar to that of the Christian—and how are these counter cultural? How does Molly show the typical denial of death and dying? In the Middle Ages there were manuals to prepare believers for death: is there anything comparable for us today? What do you think of Edward’s thoughts about the death of King Henry in Shakespeare’s play? ( “He died.” Every time I read those two words I feel euphoria.” ) Earlier, when Edward talks with the toys and the store, how is his tone similar to that of Jesus with his disciples in the gospel of John’s account of the Upper Room? That is, who, facing an impending death, is comforting whom?