At The Picture Show
Something is amiss in 'Inkheart,' and it's not the "fairy tales coming to life" thing
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Iain Softley
Screenplay: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the novel by Cornelia Funke
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, Helen
Mirren, Sienna Guillory, Rafi Gavron and Jim Broadbent
Rated PG / 1 hour, 46 minutes
(out of four)
Oh, bother. This again?
How is it that a movie featuring fire-breathers, killer cyclones, medieval
mercenaries, unicorns, flying monkeys, minotaurs, mystical worlds and the great
Andy Serkis somehow came out so . . . bland?
Where's the vitality? Is it just because of the
constant threat of danger that we're never allowed to actually experience or, you
know, enjoy all that's going? Is it just the tone that gets in the way. All
throughout Inkheart, I tried to figure it out - why wasn't this working? The
answers were too many and too slight.
Most of the movie seems to work on one level, while absolutely not working on
another. We can't enjoy the fantasy elements - inventive as they might be -
because we're constantly running from them. We can't enjoy the characters -
good as the actors might be - because they're constantly being overshadowed by
We can't enjoy the special effects - decent as they might be - because in almost
every scene in which they make a prominent appearance, our eyes are being
directed toward something else. Maybe Iain Softley (K-PAX, The Skeleton Key) is
just a crappy director, and can't figure out how to balance all of these elements.
There's a solid premise at the center of Inkheart -
one that would certainly be challenging to translate from text to screen. If you can
ignore any logistical hurdles and just see it for what it is, there's something to be
done with this concept - that certain people (Silvertongues) have the power to
bring books to life by reading out loud. This could be The Wizard of Oz, Rapunzel
or, oh I don't know, the Book of Revelation.
The potentially cataclysmic downside to such a gift is personified in the visage of
Capricorn (Andy Serkis), a former small-time hoodlum who was "read out" of a
book called Inkheart and has decided to stay in the modern world and take it over.
His diabolical plan is to accomplish this through the use of Silvertongues, who will
read at his command until the things he wants - riches, women, etc. - fall out of
His adversary is the silvertongue Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser), who years ago
inadvertently read his loving wife into the novel while reading Capricorn out. He
has been on a quest ever since to find another copy of the book and get his love
Oh, and he has a daughter, Meggie (Eliza Bennett),
who loves to read, knows nothing of her father's gift nor her mother's fate. The
other important character is Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), who Mo also read out of
Inkheart, much to his chagrin. He is on Mo's trail, ready pounce should he ever
find another copy.
Helen Mirren is also in this movie, though her character serves no discernible
purpose. But hey, now the film has double Oscar clout, so there's that.
What proceeds is the predictable series of unfortunate events leading up to the
expected twists, the inevitable changes of fortune, the obligatory changes of heart,
the compulsory peripheral characters who save the day and the de rigueur ending.
None of it is especially bad, but with so much going on, you'd think it'd be . . .
Read more by Chris Bellamy