Movie REviews REviews by scripture reviews by alphabet
About the CRitic links
                                    Brilliant, But Flawed
“Margot At The Wedding” stars Nicole Kidman as Margot, the beautiful older sister, condescending to show up at the wedding of her underachieving younger sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who’s marrying an out-of-work, neurotic, fat, lazy, loser (Jack Black).  But Margot has her own problems.  All her relationships are strained, including everyone in her family.  Everybody here has a perfectly horrible time with one another, there’s nobody to really like or root for, and it’s not funny, either, except in a maudlin, ironic, look-how-messed-up-they-are kind of way.  And at the end, we’re supposed to feel…what?  Amazed at how otherwise bright people could screw up their lives?  Relieved that we don’t have to watch them do that anymore?  If this is a chick flick, they can have it.
“August Rush” is at least more enjoyable to watch, but also more implausible.  Poor little orphan boy (Freddie Highmore) has an incredible natural gift, which other people around him sometimes recognize, sometimes ridicule, and sometimes seek to use for their own purposes.  But in the end, the boy-wonder has to figure out what to do with his huge gifts himself (see Harry Potter, Spider-Man, Superman, etc.).  In this case, the gift is music.  We see him marveling at the music of the spheres:  from the staccato rhythms of street noise to the humming on electrical wires (all you have to do is listen!).  When he has opportunity to pick up a guitar or play a pipe organ, he is an instant prodigy.  All this is about connecting, in some kind of invisible, ephemeral way, to his “real” parents (Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, themselves brilliant but dispirited musicians).  Watch for notable secondary performances, genteel from Terrence Howard and rough-hewn from Robin Williams.  The trouble with trying to establish someone else’s genius is that we have to appreciate it without being able to understand it.  How do you show other people really feeling the music in their souls?    Well, at least it’s well-meaning, and not mean-spirited, which is more than could be said of “Margot…”
“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”:  You hate to complain about a movie that tries so hard to be child-friendly, and tries so hard to be whimsical and mystical, where everyone is nice (if a little eccentric), there is no violence, no sex, no nudity, no foul language, no bathroom humor, and not even silly pet tricks.  But, as every preacher knows, just because you’re earnest and hard-working doesn’t necessarily mean you can make the magic happen.  Dustin Hoffman is likable as the offbeat Mr. Magorium, the owner of a very special toy store, whose trusty assistant (Natalie Portman) helps keep him grounded enough to live in the real world.  Their favorite patron, a nine-year-old boy named Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector (Zach Mills), seems more grown-up than anybody.  Mr. Magorium announces that he intends to depart, and hires an accountant, or “mutant” (Jason Bateman), to ease the transition, but of course, no one is ready for him to leave, including his toy store, which throws a temper tantrum and goes colorless.  There’s a cute little moral in there about believing in yourself, but sometimes being magical, like being beautiful, or charming, or witty, or even inspirational, is most often achieved when not trying too hard to achieve it.
Questions for Discussion:
1)      Do you know some very smart people who have really messed up their lives?  What went wrong?
2)      Do you know people who truly have an extraordinary gift, but have had to travel a circuitous route to develop it?
3)      When have you felt that an experience was truly magical?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas