If the jangly rhyming title sets your teeth on edge, we should give you fair warning: It’s all like that. Zach Helm, who wrote the screenplay for Stranger than Fiction, goes into candy-colored whimsy overdrive, ably assisted by Dustin Hoffman in a lisping, pop-eyed performance that suggests a clown entertaining at a children’s birthday party. Hoffman plays 243-year-old Mr. Magorium, the proprietor of a magical toy store. He’s decided that it’s time to leave this world and pass his store on to his perky assistant, Molly Mahoney (Portman, who seems to believe that acting means remaining in constant motion, like a gorgeous, marginally talented shark). To assess the business’s finances, Magorium has called in uptight accountant Henry Weston (Bateman). There’s also an adorable, precocious hat-wearing kid (Mills) who hangs around the store looking cute and narrating the living daylights out of the movie.
What little tension exists comes from the store’s resistance to change and the need to free Henry of his buttoned-down ways. The production design and the plot make a clear nod to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but Hoffman has none of Gene Wilder’s weird edge, and Magorium feels rather like drowning in Wonka’s chocolate river.