Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Dustin Hoffman is evil and must be destroyed. At least I’m sure that’s what many mothers are thinking this weekend. I, on the other hand, wanted to kill him for the last three or four months, but since yesterday, I have embraced him once again as my subversive anti-hero within the boomer generation.

What woman over the age of 50 today didn’t fall for his wide-eyed Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate back in 1967, when he finally caught on to the oh-so-obvious machinations of his father’s business partner, the much older Anne Bancroft, by proclaiming “Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me!”. With that one role Hoffman won over a generation who related to, and bonded with, him as their voice and friend. The boomers and Hoffman grew up and saw the world together in the following years.
He piqued the national curiosity in all things Native American at a time when the first stirrings of guilt in white Middle America were blossoming about the atrocious treatment our forefathers inflicted on the Indians when he gave the world Little Big Man. He made both men and women rethink the way they treated women when he proved that life was a drag in Tootsie, and he even took on the biggest political scandal of many a generation in All the President’s Men. He made us re-think our personal relationships with people with development disabilities in Rain Man, how men can and should father their children in the face of divorce in Kramer vs. Kramer, and gave us pause to reflect upon the flaws of our own public health system in Outbreak.

Then, in later years, like a lot of boomers, poor Dustin seemed to have had a mid-life crisis and wanted to sleep with, er, I mean work with my future ex-husband Jake Gyllenhaal, so he got heavy duty in Moonlight Mile, but when he was scorned (because these foolish middle-aged flings never work out, especially when the young and succulent object of their affections is already spoken for ~ and he is, isn’t that right, Jacob, My Sweet?), Dustin turned to more foolhardy projects, like Meet the Fockers and Stranger Than Fiction.

These latter films were silly trifles, fun and harmless. Meet the Fockers even allowed Hoffman to announce to the world his own comfortableness with his aging body. He and film wife Barbra Streisand (as Bernie and Roz Focker) spend an inordinate amount of their screen time talking inappropriately to their son’s prospective in-laws about their own sex life and its varying degrees of success considering the ravages of arthritis, menopause, and a host of other interferences older watchers can relate to, or at least laugh at nervously with the hope of avoiding in their own impending futures.
All of this familiarity has, over 40 plus years on-screen, cemented Hoffman’s place as a “trusted source” in cinema, kind of like Walter Cronkite’s reputation when it comes to the nightly news. Nobody ever expected Mr. Cronkite to show up on the air and fib to the American public and neither do we think Hoffman is going to sell us something that is not what is advertised. After all, he brought us Wag the Dog, the ultimate satire about a President who is willing to stage a fake war to boost his own popularity and cover up a sex scandal.

Why, then, why, for the sake of humanity and little children everywhere, has Dustin Hoffman sold his reputation and the innocence of countless six year olds by unleashing this poison apple of a kiddie movie on a faithful and trusting following?

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium has been sparkling in trailers since last summer, showing Hoffman in all his goofiest glory. He has a silly lisp and bushy eyebrows, with hair flying like it was caught by surprise a dozen times before breakfast. His clothes are from the fashion house of Dr. Seuss, and the toy store itself is a magical environment where mobiles are made of living fish, plush animals come alive, and rainbows sparkle from room to room. There’s also a perky assistant, played by Natalie Portman, who every kid in the world will recognize as Star Wars’ Padmé Amidala even though here she is in a Peter Pan pixie cut and practically bouncing off the walls like an over-caffeinated bunny in heat. Forget a plot.

The previews don’t need a plot; they reel the audience in on charm and color, and with Hoffman at the helm (nobody except film critics thinks of people like the director as “helming” a movie, and let me apologize to newbie director and writer Zach Helm ~quelle ironic, eh? ~ for that), who can lose? I’m here to tell you who: All those poor kids from the 1950s who are still not over what rattled their tiny hearts when their not-knowing moms and dads let them watch Old Yeller, The Yearling, or Bambi; those innocents of the ‘60s who will never be able to look at a spotted dog their entire lives without recalling their childhood nightmares about One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ Cruella DeVille and her plan to skin a family’s pet puppies to make herself a coat; the naïve 1970’s waifs who watched Watership Down unprepared; the equally clueless kids of the ‘80s who approached Turner & Hooch smiling and left in tears, kind of like their little brothers and sisters in the 1990s’ who saw The Lion King and counted one less King of the Lions halfway through, or who went to see Macaulay Culkin experience his first love in My Girl but didn’t expect it to end now and forever halfway through the second reel; and even this generation where we’ve seen pooches turned into pup pops in Snow Dogs and everyone’s favorite arachnid of Charlotte’s Web fame not make it to the final frame. Get my drift? Nowhere has any of the pre-release publicity or in any of the gazillion interviews Hoffman given on “Regis and Oprah Lee” or “Kelly and Rachael’s View of Martha” or whatever has he mentioned to the adults out there in the world that Mr. Magorium is going to be visiting a crematorium before the third act.

Now, it’s a well-known fact that my love of children extends as far as I can run from them, so I will admit that I found this unexpected plot point deliriously entertaining. If there hadn’t been three different birthday parties of the six and under crowd attending the same showing as I was, my chortling might have been heard over the sobs of the kids in the audience, but there were far too many in what went from being Auditorium 1 at the Essex Cinemas to Trauma Center 1 this particular Saturday. Dozens and dozens of these little innocents were suddenly and cruelly baptized into the hard, cold world that haunts each of us who are life-long movie-goers. Who knew that sweet little Benjamin Braddock would grow up to be such a twisted sociopath? Well, at least I have company at long last. Pull up a seat, Dusty. Let’s talk sequel, shall we?

Hmmm. Well, since Mr. Magorium circled the drain in this installment the little boy, Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector (Zach Mills; The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause), who steals this movie by the way with his adorable presence in almost every scene (proving, reluctantly, I guess, that I can like some children ~ well, this one anyway), but I’m digressing… let’s see… Perhaps one of the hundreds of unique hats Eric owns is a wizard’s hat or a witch doctor’s bonnet and he can use it to conjure back the old guy for Part 2. If not, it could get gruesome with Dawn of the Living Dead Magorium or something as equally traumatizing to another group of little nippers. “He feasts on the blood of pre-teens!” Nah! That’s lame. How about a prequel? Mr. Magorium’s Nazi Emporium, the story of Herr Magorium before he moved to this country. Hey. Tom Cruise is making Valkyrie. If he thinks the world will buy him as a one-eyed (really), American accented (if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’), bangs-wearing (seriously) Nazi, then why not a 70 year old Focker as a Nazi toy merchant?

No comments: