Atonement

Starring Natalie Portman, Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman. Directed by Zach Helm
Running Time: 94 minutes
Rated: Rated G

A children's film created by writer-director (Stranger Than Fiction) Zach Helm - who spent some time working in a toy shop which gave him inspiration for this fantasy about a New York shop - no, it is a huge, colourful emporium - which is managed by Mr Magorium who is over 200 years old. His deputy is a young woman, Molly Mahoney, called plainly Mahoney. A young friendless, Eric, boy spends a lot of time there.

Mr Magorium calls in an accountant (a cross between an account and a mutant!) who has no imagination. Mr Magorium (quoting King Lear: 'He dies') has decided that it is time for him to go, spend a last happy day on earth - dancing and using a public telephone - and hand the emporium over to Mahoney.

Mahoney feels she does not have the magic to run the store and wants a career as a pianist to develop her potential.

Needless to say, there is a lot of magic, and magic will win the day.

The cast is good with Natalie Portman charming as Mahoney. An odd-wigged and speech-impedimented Dustin Hoffman obviously enjoys himself as Mr Magorium (playing as if it was an audition to play Gene Wilder as the old-age Willy Wonka). Jason Bateman has to be serious and then let his hair down as the accountant. Zach Mills is the boy.

The big question is: who will really enjoy it? Little kids may enjoy the colour but miss the references to King Lear. Older children may dismiss as too much for the littlies. Parents may be curious but find it an odd mixture of the twee and the cerebral. Adults alone may not last the distance.

Village Roadshow Out December 13

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting