Home > Reviews > MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM – Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman

MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM – Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman

November 16, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most gratifying things in any industry is to have the respect of your peers; for Aaron Zigman, working on Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium must be one of the most gratifying projects of his career to date. French composer Alexandre Desplat was the composer first hired to work on this film (he was brought in very early in the project to compose some brief thematic material to be performed on-screen). However, when his scoring duties on Lust Caution and The Golden Compass clashed with post-production on this film, Desplat found himself unable to finish the task – so he specifically requested that Aaron Zigman be brought in to work with his themes, and flesh them out into a final score. The finished product is truly magical – a perfect amalgam of the two composer’s styles, which stands as one of the most enjoyable and excellent fantasy scores of 2007.

A magical comedy-drama in the same vein as Willy Wonka, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium stars Dustin Hoffman as Edward Magorium, the 243-year old owner of the most magical toy shop in the world. When his young assistant, pianist Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman) takes over the running of the store, things go downhill fast – Molly suffers from severe self-doubt, and doesn’t consider herself up to the task of continuing Magorium’s legacy. However, through her friendship with charismatic little boy named Eric (Zach Mills) and a shy accountant named Henry (Jason Bateman), she learns to believe in herself, and finds that she does possess enough magic to run Mr. Magorium’s shop. The film was written and directed by Zach Helm, the screenwriter of Stranger Than Fiction.

The score for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is a true delight, creating a wonderfully vivid musical portrait of magical whimsy through sparkling orchestrations, strong themes, and an enormous sense of fun. In a way, it’s like John Williams’ thematic strength from scores like Hook, combined with Danny Elfman’s magical orchestrations from Edward Scissorhands, James Horner’s buoyant sense of fun from scores like Casper, and lightheartedness and delicacy that anchored so much of Georges Delerue’s career. And, if you know me well enough to know my musical tastes, you will understand what a compliment this is.

The main theme, one of Desplat’s strongest, is present throughout the score: a simple eight-note melody with a swirling waltz-like rhythm, it gets its first stirring performance by the massed string section in “Mahoney’s Debut”, and goes through several permutations thereafter: as a bittersweet piano solo in “Night Time”, as a mournful piece for basses in “The Wall’s Breath”, subtly by synth choirs in the surprisingly modernistic “The Funeral”, and so on. As is often the case, its strength is its adaptability, being able to conform to several different styles of performance without losing any of its vitality. It’s conclusive performance, in the “Finale”, is truly spellbinding.

There is a great deal of musical flamboyance – not quite action music per se, but which has a high-spirited, whirligig ebullience that is a delight to behold. Cues such as “Dodge Ball”, the elephantine “Temper Tantrum”, and the Tchaikovsky-esque “Triscadecaphobia” are tremendously enjoyable flights of fancy. At the other end of the scale, there is also a great deal of delicate beauty to be found, notably in “Sparkle” and the tender “The Flight of Magorium”, which again features a delightful performance of the main theme on piano, with heartfelt string accompaniment.

One of the other strengths of the album is the fact that it’s difficult to tell where Desplat’s contribution ends and Zigman’s begins. Of course, it’s clear that the main theme is Desplat’s work, but the seamless integration of Desplat’s style in to Zigman’s writing is commendable. The orchestration in this score is truly superb. Every section of the orchestra gets to show off its performance chops in one cue or another, and some of the instrumental choices are downright inspired: listen out for the saxophones carrying the melody in the “Main Title”, the madcap percussion in “Good Morning”, the crazy luau music in “Magorium’s Apartment”, the Thomas Newman-esque marimbas in “A Substantial Offer”, and the euphonium in… um… “The Euphonium”. It’s not often one mentions the orchestrators in a review, but my hat goes off to Jerry Hey, Gernot Wolfgang, Brad Warnaar, Patrick Kirst, Dan Higgins, Bruce Babcock and Bill Reichenbach for their inventiveness here.

Once again, Alexandre Desplat has proven himself to be one of the best composers working in film anywhere in the world today. More importantly, though, Aaron Zigman is gradually beginning to impress me more and more. From The Notebook and John Q, Flicka, and Bridge to Terabithia earlier this year, Zigman is developing into a composer of note in his own right, and is worth watching in future. The collaboration of these two men on Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is really excellent; this score comes highly recommended.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:44)
  • Mahoney’s Debut (2:39)
  • Good Morning (1:24)
  • Night Time (0:47)
  • Kermit (1:38)
  • Dodge Ball (1:53)
  • Bellini (0:59)
  • Temper Tantrum Part 1 (2:31)
  • The Wall’s Breath (0:42)
  • The Flight of Magorium (4:45)
  • The Store Jam (1:05)
  • Temper Tantrum Part 2 (1:17)
  • Block of Wood (1:53)
  • The Funeral (2:42)
  • Great Wisdom (1:21)
  • Sparkle (2:01)
  • Triscadecaphobia (1:20)
  • Magorium’s Apartment (1:02)
  • Dancing (1:34)
  • Your Friend (1:47)
  • Lost Pair (1:16)
  • Just Trying to Help (1:02)
  • Eric Builds Lincoln (1:13)
  • Eric and Mutant (1:58)
  • A Substantial Offer (1:33)
  • The Euphonium (0:42)
  • The Stare (0:36)
  • I’m Stuck (1:13)
  • You’re Hired (1:31)
  • Tomorrow (1:53)
  • You Have to Live (0:41)
  • A New Chapter (1:30)
  • I’m Leaving (0:40)
  • Delusional (0:38)
  • Magic Magnet (1:35)
  • Finale (2:40)
  • Love the World You Find (written by Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins and Steven Drozd, performed by The Flaming Lips) (2:33)

Running Time: 58 minutes 50 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6864 (2007)

Music composed by Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman. Conducted by Aaron Zigman. Orchestrations by Alexandre Desplat, Aaron Zigman, Jerry Hey, Gernot Wolfgang, Brad Warnaar, Patrick Kirst, Dan Higgins, Bruce Babcock and Bill Reichenbach. Recorded and mixed by Steve Kempster. Album produced by Aaron Zigman.

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