“Inkheart” (quality rating: 6 out of 10)
Director: Iain Softley
Screenplay: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the Cornelia Funke novel
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennet, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent
Time: 1 hr., 46 min.
Rating: PG (fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief vulgarity)
Lotta detail. Little involvement. Fun to watch. So easy to forget.
In “Inkheart,” a wildly ambitious fairy tale fantasy, a lot of people move around among a lot of objects and things, threatening each other, victimizing, controlling and, each time they do that, we’re left with a shrug. Not that it hasn’t been neat to watch. This film is just bristling with flawlessly done special effects, endless and countless.
But we are bedecked here with supposedly magical characters who don’t radiate magic. Why not? Well, y’see, on screen, when fanciful persons and critters materialize out of nowhere, you kind of expect them to follow through with catchy personalities and fanciful things to do. Otherwise you walk away having seen simple demonstrations of visual effects. Pretty, but . . .
The film, understand, is aggressive. Its performances are more than energetic. Its villain is so very bad like you wouldn’t believe — besides threatening good and decent persons with perfectly awful punishments, his little army of baddies lethally threatens parenthood and burns books. What one does sense is missing in all this menace and mayhem, however, is a theme with something of substance a little more compelling than all of that. One recollects the “Lord of the Rings” series in which cosmic forces of untold power drew our heroes into confrontation. “Inkheart” doesn’t reach for those kind of stakes. Without that, its moment-to-moment conflicts crave momentum. And a search for a lost mommy isn’t a theme with the intrinsic energy to sustain you.
In this very bizarre fantasy, perhaps designed more for adults with its convoluted philosophy, we have bookbinder Mortimer “Mo” Folchart (Brendan Fraiser) who’s forever visiting now here, now there, all over the world, dragging along his nonappreciative daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett).
At the last home, there arrives an old mysterious acquaintance of Mo’s named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany). This event is to make a sudden change in Mo’s life with Meggie. Without explaining to her what’s happening, next morning Mo packs up and leaves with her.
They will stop at Meggie’s Great Aunt Eleanor’s (Helen Mirren). Dramatic events will now come together. It seems that 10 years ago Mo discovered within himself a strange gift in which, when he reads a book aloud, the characters come to life and actually leave the book. He’s known in the metaphysical world as a “silvertongue.” But the process then dictates that these characters must be replaced by “reading in” somebody else.
At that time, in a mishap he had read in a rare book called “Inkheart,” a thug character from long ago named Capricorn (Andy Serkis) had emerged. And Mo had inadvertently “read in” his own wife (Sienna Guillory). Now, some thugs arrive and kidnap Mo, so to bring him to Capricorn. Capricorn, a cruel man, now wants Mo to read out “The Shadow” an evil power which will aid Capricorn in his world conquest ambitions.
Meggie goes forth with Eleanor to Capricorn’s village to rescue him. Not so easy. As soon as they arrive, they’re adbucted themselves and locked up with Mo. It turns out that she too is a silvertongue. But there are two others who had come out of the book and the great heroics begin. Some are by Dustfinger who desperately wants to prove to the author of Inkheart (Jim Broadbent) that he’s better than his written character. Meantime, obviously, Mo and Meggie want mom back. This is all headed to an apocalypse-type finish.
Too much of the film’s plot elements were loosely handled. It just wants to be remembered for its monumentally sensational effects at the end.
Marty Meltz is at http://www.martymoviereviews.com 30-year former films critic for the Award-winning Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram. Offering right-to-the-point reviews that address directly the question of the film’s entertainment value to you. Films have personalities. It doesn’t matter who wrote it, who directs it, who stars in it, if it doesn’t reach out to you at your deepest levels. I examine its honesty and intelligence. Are you being respected, or are you being jerked around? How much did the film take on as a challenge? Did it pick up its point and run with it? Did you care about it? Does it care about you?