Review by Jack Foley
IN BOOK form, adult-child fantasy novel Inkheart is the first part of a trilogy written by German author Cornelia Funke that has gained ever-increasing popularity since its debut in 2003. It’s doubtful, though, whether the films will enjoy such longevity.
Iain Softley’s film is a wayward adventure movie that pales by comparison to the very best examples of the genre. In doing so, it wastes the talents of its terrific cast and becomes increasingly more messy and inconsistent the longer it lasts.
Mo (Brendan Fraser) has the ability to make the characters of books emerge from them whenever he reads aloud. He first discovered this when his daughter, Meggie (Eliza Bennett) was just a baby, when he read from the book Inkheart and caused several of its wicked characters, including Capricorn (Andy Serkis), to come to life. In doing so, he also accidentally read Meggie’s mother, Teresa (Sienna Guillory), into the story.
Twelve years later, Mo is still searching for the copy of the book that might help him retrieve Teresa, but has chosen to keep his powers secret from his daughter. Upon finding the book, however, Mo finds himself at the mercy of Capricorn once again and must enlist the help of a fire-eater named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) to prevent the evil characters from wreaking havoc upon the real world.
The main problem with Inkheart is that despite a promising start it struggles to engage with audiences of any age. It also contains an uneven tone and a distinct crisis of identity.
Fraser’s hero, for instance, goes missing in his own movie late on, allowing the far superior Bettany to steal the show, while the likes of Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren appear all too fleetingly and often seem superfluous to the smooth flow of proceedings.
The numerous literary references, too, are poorly handled and often feel like they’ve literally been thrown in, while the untidy resolution serves as an apt metaphor for the way in which Hollywood so often re-writes endings to the detriment of all concerned.
The underlying message concerning the importance of books and reading is a worthy one – but in this case it only serves to heighten the suspicion that prospective viewers should really stick to the book instead.
Inkheart, in film form, is a huge – and dare I say boring – disappointment!
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: April 13, 2009
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read the review
- Brendan Fraser interview
- Paul Bettany interview