5 Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
This wasn’t among the year’s top box office hits, it’s not one of the most brilliant films of our day and is unlikely to become a cult classic. But it is just so charming. The plot is fairly predictable and very little actually happens but young kids will adore it and sophisticated adults will appreciate it even if they don’t enjoy it all the way through. Mr. Magorium is 236 years old and has been running his toy shop for almost that long. He has two employees: Molly Mahoney, general manager, and Belliini, a bookbuilder who may or may not be just another part of the shop’s magic. While it seems the main plotline is supposed to be the attempt to give Molly the confidence she needs to take over the store and follow her dreams, the side plots are really much more interesting. For example, the store’s reaction to the turnover in management and the effect that human emotion has on the environment; or Mr. Magorium’s decision to die which is handled gently and poignantly. Besides the beautiful visuals of the store at its peak of vibrancy, the best part by far are two characters: Eric, a nine year old boy who has trouble making friends and who takes refuge in his abilities as a clerk and salesman of magical toys, and Mr. Magorium himself who provides yet another outlet for Dustin Hoffman to prove how awesome he really is.
Like Ratatouille, Enchanted is also a tribute to classic animated movies, but as a parody of them. It begins with an animated Disney style princess with all the usual accessories: an evil queen, cute animal companions, wistful songs about a handsome prince. But when the spell is cast, Princess Giselle is flung out of the animated world and into New York City where she is luckily discovered by a little girl whose single father (played by the adorable Patrick Dempsey) is pressured to take in the forlorn princess. And in fact, she helps him out in his relationship with a long time girlfriend. Disney continues to play the parody card for awhile, including a clever scene where the animals of Manhattan, namely cockroaches, pigeons and rats, respond to Giselle’s song and come help her clean the apartment. As they continue to mock the genre, you think that this might be wonderful. Finally all those idealized love-at-first-sight storylines are getting mocked. Our princess will learn independence and the prince will marry a mature and independent woman who he has had a gradually building relationship with! Don’t get too excited though because (spoiler alert here!) even Enchanted falls into its own trap. So don’t expect to take little girls to see this as an educational event. Nonetheless it’s fun and entertaining. Girls will like the catchy tunes and pretty dresses, boys will like the catchy tunes and cockroach scenes and parents will like the snarky humor and Susan Sarandon’s magnificent performance as the evil queen.
This is a good old fashioned animated movie with a relaxing pace and a satisfying moral. Our hero is Remy, a sewer rat with a sophisticated palate and unarguable talent as a gourmet chef. Unfortunately, that’s not a talent that is appreciated in the sewers and a rat isn’t welcome in the kitchens of the fine restaurants of Paris. The themes in the movie are ones that can be understood on a number of levels, depending on the viewer’s age: Ambition, art, family relationships. As usual in Pixar movies, the animation in Ratatouille is flawless. The beautiful visuals and music are relied on to evoke taste and smell, and they do it well enough to make you want to go out to dinner afterward. But the movie’s strong point is that it doesn’t attempt too much. They don’t try to pack in gags and the movie has just enough movement and humor without ever crossing the line to feel like a bombardment of stimulus. Like Remy, the writers seemed to appreciate that there’s nothing wrong with a simple classic if you do it right.
2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
We were on the fence for awhile about whether this can really be called a kid’s movie. From the beginning the Harry Potter movies have been a bit spookier than the books and around the 5th book even the books started getting really dark. While this movie does start to get a bit gruesome (Voldemort is back, after all) it’s still one of the most entertaining. As Harry and Hermione begin to take a more active leadership role among their fellow students, we get to meet more supporting characters and become better acquainted with the likes of Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood who will quickly become fan favorites. And fortunately, time limitations didn’t allow the moviemakers to take everything from the book, so they left out most of Harry’s angst and teenage tantrums, leaving a very satisfied action filled movie.
1 Shrek the Third
The humor in the third Shrek movie is aimed even more at parents than before, since now Shrek and Fiona are on their way to parenthood themselves. That’s in addition to the usual Hollywood-goes-medieval stuff, fairytale spinoffs, and farting. In fact, it can get to be a bit much sometimes so it’s a good thing this movie is a bit shorter than the others. The makers of Shrek clearly know their strong points. If the first movie was a kid’s movie with some clever stuff thrown in to keep the parent happy, then the third movie is the opposite. With the exception of the toilet humor, there’s a lot that younger kids won’t get. But it’s fast and colorful and filled with slapstick, so kids will be mesmerized nonetheless.
What did your kids see in 2007?