“When King Lear dies in Act Five, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written, ‘He dies.’ That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare. No metaphor. No brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is, ‘He dies.’ … And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words, ‘He dies’, but because of the life we saw prior to the words. I’ve lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I’m only asking that you turn the page, continue reading and let the next story begin. And if anyone ever asks what became of me, you relate my life, in all its wonder, and end it with a simple, and modest, ‘He died.’”
Mister Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), enigmatic owner of a magical toy store, is trying to explain his own departure to his legal heir, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman). He has already made it clear that he is “leaving this world” and even informed her of the time. “About 4:30,” he says.
But Molly doesn’t want him to leave. Nor does she want to try running the store by herself. It’s a magical store, after all, and she has no magic of her own.
Nonetheless, Mister Magorium is leaving.
Fear can stop us cold. We often have dreams we wish to pursue, for a new career, a new learning experience, a new relationship. But we fear the possibility of failure. So we avoid it by never trying.
Our fears can be magnified when we compare ourselves with those who have gone before us. People who have succeeded in reaching their goals, when we haven’t even started. Mister Magorium leaves behind a legacy of a life well-lived. He found wonder and joy in each moment, each experience. Even dancing on a mat of bubble-wrap, or using a public phone for the very first time. A bookbinding employee who lives in the store’s basement has compiled Magorium’s biography, which contains a full shelf of volumes.
Mahoney can’t compare. She sees no such life for herself, even though the bubble-wrap was her own idea. Even though she is a gifted musician. The difference lies in the willingness to take risks.
In contrast, Henry (Jason Bateman), the store’s first accountant ever, is quite busy pursuing his goals. More to the point, he is quite busy. When a lonely young boy named Eric (Zach Mills) tries to befriend him, inviting him to play checkers, Henry explains that he’s working. Eric asks him to play when he stops working. Henry answers, “I never stop working.”
I’ve met people who view life as a social ladder to climb. Their entire world is wrapped in the drive to succeed, to earn the next promotion, to win themselves a bigger office with a window view. Yet their goals often seem hollow. Full of hard work, but void of true joy or purpose. It seems as if their only reason for climbing higher on their career ladder is to reach the next rung, where it might pay better, but be a little bit lonelier.
Ultimately, Henry learns to see beyond what is immediate and practical, to rediscover the wonder he had in childhood through his new friendship with Eric, as he learns to play-act with Eric’s extensive hat collection. He also learns from Mahoney’s cajoling about his being a “just” person – someone who sees everything as “‘just’ a park bench, or ‘just’ a tree, or ‘just’ a toy store”, when it’s obvious to anyone else that the toy store is magical.
In the end, Henry’s belief in the toy store ignites Mahoney’s belief in herself. To do something unique and wonderful with her life. She discovers that Mister Magorium’s magic is in her as well, to bring the toy store back to life for the children, and for herself.
Life is meant to be lived. Not to be feared, because of the chance of failing, or to be missed, because of the pace of business. Life is an endless opportunity to accept new challenges and enjoy new experiences. To expect the unexpected miracles that can be seen each day, if we have eyes to witness it.
“Your life is an occasion,” Mister Magorium had challenged her. “Rise to it.”
Find more reviews of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium at amazon.com!
Thursday, February 26th, 2009