Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Soundtrack) – Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Soundtrack)

Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman


Walden Media / Varese Sarabande Records

If you haven’t figured out by now that I’m some kind of dork (definite music dork, definite English dork, among others), this review will greatly tip you off.  Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of my favorite movies – I saw it in theaters, I own the DVD, and I have bought the soundtrack to the movie.  You could say that I like kids’ movies, and you’d probably be right.  But I have reasons why I watch kids’ movies (and these reasons which I’m telling you for my own credibility can also be used to strengthen your argument against me, I’m fully aware).  First of all, I’m a full-blown optimist (for the most part).  So instead of watching horror / slasher films, I’d prefer to watch a children’s movie that may tug on one’s heartstrings (whatever the hell those are), but still have an optimistic message to get across.  Secondly, a lot of great actors and directors make kid’s movies – that most can be enjoyed by adults – Ben Stiller.  Jim Carrey. And in this case: Dustin Hoffman, Jason Bateman (who, after I became obsessed with Arrested Development, I will watch anything with him in it, no matter how horrible it is – Extract – because Bateman is an amazing actor / comedian.  And no, I do not have a man-crush on him, though it may seem so), and Natalie Portman (who, I completely have a crush on, and I believe can do no wrong – except for the Star Wars movies and dating Devendra Banhart).  And then directors!  For instance, I just saw Fantastic Mr. Fox this weekend solely because it was a Wes Anderson movie.

And yes, I’m using Fantastic Mr. Fox as a transition into my next point.  Thirdly, the music.  Childrens’ movies have some awesome music (You can’t tell me that Danny Elfman’s soundtrack to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure was not the best orchestrated soundtrack of the ’90’s).  Fantastic Mr. Fox, being a Wes Anderson film, had great music.  Which is thanks to Alexandre Desplat.  Who, if you’ve read the title of this review, composed the music to Mr. Magorium.  See how awesome I am at creating transitions?

Anyway, the music of Mr. Magorium was one of the best orchestrations in soundtracks I’ve ever heard.  This fact is partially due to the idea of the music being included in the plot of the film.  Not only did the music serve as an emotional backdrop to the scenes, but acted as a catalyst for much of the storyline.  Portman’s character is a pianist, and aspiring composer.  During most scenes, she’s seen tapping her fingers like she’s playing a piano to the music that’s supposedly in the background (this was a really cool aspect of the movie – and even lampshaded when an old friend runs into her).  The music makes the toy shop dance in some scenes.  And the finale brings everything together, as the shop completely finished out Portman’s unfinished composition (which is “Mahoney’s Debut” on the album). 

I could go track by track through the album like the normal format on this website.  But I won’t.  Because it’s hard to treat the album like an actual album.  The tracks were composed to be in the movie.  Outside of that context, it’s not much help.  This is also considering that many of the songs are extremely similar using themes found during other songs – which makes the whole soundtrack feel kind of like a classical score.  But also, it’s because I’m kind of lazy and there’s thirty-seven songs on here.  I don’t feel like sifting through each one just to say, “Track 25, ‘A Substantial Offer,’ offers profound insight into blah blah blah blah blah.”  Especially not when most of the songs are repetitive, and there’s no way I’d listen to each song on the album every time I played the album.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t amazing songs on here.  Particularly, the first quarter of the soundtrack is really fun to listen to.  “Night Time,” “Kermit,” “Dodge Ball,” “Toy Store Jam,” and the “Temper Tantrum” songs are really cool.  A lot of the songs on the CD will get stuck in your head, the melodies being repeated necessarily will ensure this.

But, there are three songs on the album that definitely need to be pointed out.  The first is “Good Morning.”  It is an amazing composition, extremely upbeat.  The melody is amazing.  The whole orchestra is amazing.  It’s catchy, arranged very well, and short which warrants numerous listens.  Also, it’s one of the few songs on the CD that, just by hearing the song, one can immediately think about the scene in the movie.  This particular scene is early on, letting the toy store to “wake up” to the music.  And the song accomplishes that mood perfectly (though, I’m pretty sure that the theatrical release used Elfman’s “Breakfast Machine” from the aforementioned Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  This is a claim that I can’t prove.  I only saw the movie once in the theaters, and the DVD releases have “Good Morning” playing.  I don’t know if I just imagined “Breakfast Machine” playing, or if it really did.  I wish I had a way to find out, but alas, I don’t).

The second song, one that also accomplishes the remembering of the scene from the movie idea, is “Mahoney’s Debut.”  This track features a great orchestra.  The music swells during the entire song; the arrangement starts off quietly, gets louder with the repeated themes, and ends majestically.  It’s a completely hummable melody.  Listening to “Mahoney’s Debut,” I’m reminded of Beethoven.  Now, I’m not saying that Desplat and Zigman are anywhere close to being as great as Beethoven.  I’m simply saying that Beethoven’s music towards the end had a definite heroic theme aspect to his works.  And this is relevant in “Mahoney’s Debut.”  It’s an emotional composition that sounds heroic in a sort-of-way.  It’s even better if you’ve watched the movie.

The last song is the extremely misplaced “Love the World You Find” by The Flaming Lips.  I say “extremely” for a few reasons.  This is the only song on the released soundtrack that isn’t an orchestrated song by Desplat and Zigman.  Out of thirty-seven tracks, this is the only one.  Which is one of my complaints with the album.  Where is “Don’t Be Shy” by Cat Stevens, the song that was played during a pivotal scene?  Where is Mahoney’s rendition of Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper”?  Why are they not on the released soundtrack?  Also, the song doesn’t even sound like a Flaming Lips song (which, for me, is a positive thing).  It wouldn’t even fit in with their discography at all.  Yes, I’m not a Flaming  Lips fan – and by all accounts, I should be.  But, I genuinely like this song.  Maybe because it does have a positive, optimistic message – which is the sole reason that the song half-fits on the album.

I don’t have many complaints with the soundtrack.  The lack of the two other songs bothers me, for one.  But, an even bigger problem is the track listing.  The songs aren’t in order with the movie.  “Mahoney’s Debut” should be in the thirty-sixth slot, not number two.  Why is “The Funeral” so early on the CD, even before “Triscadecaphobia,” “Dancing,” and “The Euphonium”?  This greatly bothers me.

But that’s all.  The soundtrack is a very hopeful one, in addition to the movie.  But, it’s a nice soundtrack, but outside of the context of the movie, is hard to get into.  For most of it.  Like I said, there are a lot of great compositions, but really, I can’t picture many people buying the CD, especially if they haven’t seen the movie.  Now, I’m not trying to write a movie review, but I feel like I should at least mention that the movie wasn’t really received well by critics.  Which is understandable.  Because nothing about this movie is vague.  It’s an upfront, honest film with itself.  It doesn’t try to be anything less than optimistic.  And the soundtrack is positive right along with it.  It accomplishes its job.  And even goes beyond what most movie compositions do; the music fills in as an almost fifth (or sixth if you include the toy store as another) character.  Desplat and Zigman did a wonderful job.  And most of this could be coming out because I am a complete music dork, but it’s also my emotional attachment side that thinks the movie is great.  Or it could be because I’ll love anything with Natalie Portman. 

Buy This Album

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2 Responses to “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Soundtrack) – Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman”

  1. ‘And the song accomplishes that mood perfectly (though, I’m pretty sure that the theatrical release used Elfman’s “Breakfast Machine” from the aforementioned Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. This is a claim that I can’t prove. I only saw the movie once in the theaters, and the DVD releases have “Good Morning” playing. I don’t know if I just imagined “Breakfast Machine” playing, or if it really did. I wish I had a way to find out, but alas, I don’t).’

    Hi there.
    Elfman’s music was only used in the trailer:

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