Remember after school reading programs? The annual book fair, or dare I say the “Bookmobile?” After watching Lain Softley’s adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s novel Inkheart, that’s all I could think of. With a story submerged in children’s literature, it’s easy to feel as if you’re being held captive in a library instead of a theater. Inkheart makes an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Narnia, and The Golden Compass, with it’s fantasy driven theme, special effect’s, and Oscar winning cast, but doesn’t quite make it.
In a world that blurs the line between fiction and reality, Inkheart follows the father, daughter team of Mortimer (Brenden Fraser), and Meggie Folchart (Eliza Hope Bennet). Both of whom are sent on a fantastical journey when a man by the name of Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) emerges from Mortimer’s past, exposing a family secret. In the logic of this film, certain people are born with a gift that allows them to bring characters from any book to life, simply by reading a passage. Unfortunately, once a character’s been released into our world, someone has to take their place, and any random person can be simultaneously transferred into their book. Mortimer, armed with the gift of gab, inadvertently released a few not so pleasant creatures from a copy of Inkheart, and in their place he lost his wife, Resa (Sienna Guillory). Years later, with a 12 year old daughter, a past exposed, and a rag tag crew of Brother’s Grimm rejects on his tail, Mortimer finds himself in a huge heap of literary trouble.
Inkheart is classified as a fantasy/action film that’s geared towards the PG crowd, yet I find it hard to believe that any child would stay captivated for it’s entire run. I’m an adult, and for the first hour I was having a hard time staying interested. The concept for the story is clever, but I definitely feel as if it was tarnished by a less than stellar script. Brendan Fraser who as of late, has dominated the children’s action adventure genre, didn’t impress me this time around. There was no light in his eyes, no quick quips, no Rick O’Connell charisma, nothing. Paul Bettany’s bad guy with a conscience, Dustfinger held my attention for the majority of the time with his conflicted demeanor, and desire to return home. In a surprising move, the majority of the movie’s lightest moments came from Oscar winners Helen Mirren, and Jim Broadbent. Mirren as Meggie’s great-aunt Elinor, and Broadbent as the quirky author of Inkheart, Fenoglio.
As for Meggie, the young heroine of the film, Eliza Hope Bennett did a great job considering the material she was given. She held her own in scenes with Mirren and Broadbent, and didn’t come off as the typical juvenile character. Most of that may be attributed to the fact that the actress is 16, and in the film she portrays a 12 year old, but this is Hollywood and that happens from time to time. As for the film’s villain, Andy Serkis starred as Capricorn, a henchman who crossed over the same time as Dustfinger. His lust for our world, and everything in it is evident, by his attempts to destroy every printed copy of Inkheart. Therefore, solidifying his presence in this reality, and destroying any chance of him returning to his own. To some, his performance could have been seen as over the top, but taking his character’s background into consideration, it was tolerable.
In terms of Inkheart’s visual quality, I will give credit to where credit’s due. There is a standout sequence in the film where we get to see all the characters from both world’s collide in a festival of CGI imagery. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, but it only lasts about 15 minutes, and then your back to the same song. Inkheart makes a valid attempt at being an adventure film that’s exciting, and action packed, but sadly it misses the mark. As opposed to it being in the same league as The Chronicles of Narnia, or Harry Potter, Inkheart is more conducive to an hour, and forty-five minute episode of Reading Rainbow. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Inkheart is rated PG, and is playing in theaters everywhere.