Inkheart, based upon the bestselling novel by Cornelia Funke, fits right in to the current trend in Hollywood of the written page becoming a reality. The very notion arouses all kinds of childhood memories (“what would my favorite character be like if he/she were real?”), and for the most part Inkheart works on imagination alone. Throw in some fun adventure sequences and solid direction from Iain Softley and you have a nice mid-winter family diversion.
Brendan Fraser stars as Mortimer “Mo” Frochart, one of the gifted few known as Silvertongues. You see, whenever Mo reads a story it comes to life. While fun and exciting on the surface, there is a catch: whenever a fictional character comes to life, a human is banished into the book being read. That’s what happened to Mo’s wife while reading a book called Inkheart when his daughter, Meggie (Bennett), was just a child. Meggie is now twelve and as curious as ever about her mother’s fate. She and Mo begin a journey that takes them inside the world of Inkheart and all of its colorful characters.
Director Iain Softley keeps the pace up for the young ones and the film includes several impressive action sequences. The script, by David Lindsay-Abaire, is, I would imagine, less compelling than the source material as it leaves several gaping plot holes wide open. For instance, how does time lapse for the characters between their time in Inkheart and their time on good old planet Earth? This looks to be a series in the making, but Lindsay-Abaire’s screenplay leaves astute viewers with more questions than answers.
The cast is superb. Brendan Fraser, by comparison to other members of the cast, seems out of his league – and he is. However, he always seems to find a way to be likable as well as a classic-style hero. The supporting work by the likes of Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent, and Andy Serkis is all spot on. Bettany steals the show as Dustfinger, an Inkheart character who begrudgingly believes that his fate is not sealed by Inkheart’s author, Fenoglio (Broadbent). Young Eliza Bennett also makes a memorable impression as Meggie. It’s pretty easy to envision her moving along with the series.
Plot holes notwithstanding, Inkheart is a well-timed and well-made family film that seems too good for the traditional January dumping grounds. Best of all, the film’s message of “the book can be just as good as the movie” and its encouragement to its young audience to read will certainly please parents. I have a tougher time envisioning this series having a lot of legs, but there is a lot of appeal in the casting and story. Hell, a movie just about Dustfinger would be fine by me.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 106 Minutes
Rating: PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language.
Theatrical Release: January 23, 2009
Directed by: Iain Softley
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire. Based upon the novel by Cornelia Funke.
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, Eliza Bennett