January 25, 2009
Review - " Inkheart " (in Theaters) - By Roland Hansen
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"Inkheart" (Warner Bros.)
Director: Iain Softley
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Andy
The overall results are mixed, but there's no denying that the superpower
on display in "Inkheart" is a novel one.
Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) is a "silvertongue," able to bring book
characters to literal life by reading their stories aloud. It's a nifty parlor trick.
Could be fun reading Penthouse forum but you might want to stay away
from anything by Stephen King
For Mo it's a curse. Years ago he read aloud an obscure fantasy called
"Inkheart," with the result that characters from the book entered our world.
Simultaneously his beloved wife, Resa (Sienna Guillory), vanished ...
presumably she has become a character (and prisoner) of the novel.
Now Mo, with his 12 year old daughter, Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett),
wanders Europe in search of another copy of "Inkheart" that might allow him
to undo the damage. Pursuing them is a crew of black-jacketed thugs from
the novel, led by the sinister Capricorn (Andy Serkis), who wants to use
Mo's power to bring forth weapons and wealth. These bad guys have
adapted well to our world, taking over a medieval village in a mountainous
part of Italy and setting forth from a crumbling castle to do mischief.
An entirely different case is Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a street magician from "Inkheart" who can create flames just by
snapping his fingers. He and his furry companion want Mo to return them to the pages of the book, where Dustfinger left
behind a wife (a cameo by Jennifer Connelly) and family.
Along the way Mo and Meggie team with Aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren), an eccentric bookworm, Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the
graying author of "Inkheart", and Farid (Rafi Gavron), one of the 40 thieves brought to our world from a reading of "1001
At its most intriguing "Inkheart" is a bit like the "National Treasure" films but delivering tidbits of literary history instead of
nuggets of American history. But despite strong production values and a cast of heavy hitters, "Inkheart" never hooks us as
it should. The film is unfocused. Is it Mo's story? Meggie's? Dustfinger's? The script lacks a point of view and jumps
restlessly from one point to another. And then there are the characters themselves, most have been reduced to a single
personality trait, more walking cliches than fully formed people. Not even seasoned pros like Mirren and Broadbent can fully
inhabit these cartoonish creations.
Cheeky visual references to classic children’s books, the flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz” and the ticking croc from
“Peter Pan” are among the creatures shown here, keep the pic sporadically engaging and underscore its reverential
attitude toward literature. Visually, the film is impressively crafted in all respects, with lush widescreen views of coastal Italy
and splendid palatial interiors.
The sole American in a cast of mostly British actors, Fraser
doesn't vary his game much. Bennett is spirited and
watchable as a girl who must ultimately draw on her own
imaginative power to save the day, and Jim Broadbent is
in reliable fuddy-duddy form as Fenoglio, the author of the
novel within the novel. Bettany in particular is broody and
cool, and I enjoyed watching him struggle with the notion
of free will after he (literally) meets his maker.
Overall "Inkheart" is a moderately enjoyable adventure with
the great visuals the movie offers, and the intriguing idea
at its heart, kids will probably love it. But older, more critical
moviegoers may have a harder time suspending their
disbelief to the level Inkheart requires.