3 out of 5 stars

No small ‘Wonder’ if you’re still a kid

“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”

At Quality 16 and Showcase

Fox Walden

There are two ways to look at “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” The first is to take it at face value, its flaws clear with one- or two-note characters, disjointed plotlines, obvious believe-in-yourself themes and a great idea that never really fulfills its promise.

The other possibility is to look at the movie through a child’s eyes. The safe place Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman, “Stranger than Fiction”) creates is one where playthings come alive; where pretending, creativity and imagination are encouraged; where there isn’t a TV in sight. In this realm devoid of product placement and violence, death and abandonment are dealt with through “King Lear” and the belief that the end of one book marks the beginning of another.

Cynical parents as serious as the film’s Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman, “Garden State”) might walk out of the theater shaking their heads, turned off by the juvenile failings of the movie. But 6-year-olds – and those with a 6-year-old still inside of them – might realize that sometimes in movies, it’s better not to think. It’s better to just believe.

SARAH SCHWARTZ

A dry, inauthentic version of the classic novel

2 out of 5 stars

“Love in the Time of Cholera”

At Quality 16 and Showcase

New Line

Set in turn-of-the-century Colombia, the new film version of “Love in the Time of Cholera” falls short of the great Gabriel García Márquez novel on which it is based. The story centers on the cripplingly love-struck Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem, “Before Night Falls”), and the infatuation that drives the film is established early as Florentino falls for Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), the well-to-do daughter of mule owner Lorenzo Daza (John Leguizamo, “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown”).

Though it has good intentions, director Mike Newell’s (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) version of the novel never really captures the characters’ passion. Love, the main ingredient in this story, is manifested mostly in the physical form, only toward the end resembling anything close to emotional connection.

At one point, in response to the female protagonist admitting virginity, her fiancé whispers, “This is going to be a lesson in love,” right before they engage in coitus. The only thing the scene needs is Vaseline smeared on the lens to indicate that we’re watching a porno.

And if the gratuitous sex isn’t enough, the accented English intended to replace the natural Spanish and the dopey costumes make the film hard to stomach as a legitimate adaptation.

NOAH DEAN STAHL

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