© 2009 Ray Wong
Inkheart has a great premise that every writer could only dream of. But alas! What transpired is a mess of movie non-magic.
After nine years of searching all over the world, Mo "Silvertongue" Folchart (Brendan Fraser) finally finds the book he's been seeking while traveling in Europe with his teenage daughter, Meggie (Eliza Bennett). When a mysterious man called Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) tracks them down, Meggie starts to question what her father is hiding. What she doesn't know is that Mo has a special power: he can conjure things and characters from books he reads into the real world. But he can't control his power, and he accidentally put his wife, Resa (Sienna Guillory) inside a book called Inkheart, after releasing bad guy Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and his minions to the real world. Dustfinger happens to be one of the characters as well.
And that's why he's been searching for the book, in hopes of releasing Resa. Meanwhile, Dustfinger makes a deal to help Mo find Inkheart so that Mo can put him back into his world. At the same time, Capricorn tracks Mo and Meggie down and capture them -- he wants Mo to bring him the treasures and power from the books, and he destroys the only copy of Inkheart Mo has. Desperate, Mo escapes and finds the author of the book, Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), who agrees to help them by rewriting the story. If only they can get to Capricorn first before he captures and kills everyone.
Brendan Fraser (Mummy 3) has recently made a character playing Indiana Jones lite in action-adventure movies. The once promising dramatic actor is now reduced to action heroes in most of his films. That's not to say Fraser is not good at what he does. He has the good looks, the charm, and the earnestness that makes him perfect in these roles. Still, there are no depths in these performances and Brendan seems to particularly cruise through this one. Eliza Bennett (Perfect Life) is a bit too old to play Meggie (who's supposed to be 12), but she does a good job.
Paul Bettany (The Secret Life of Bees) does his best with the inconsistent role of Dustfinger. His character is so poorly written that we can empathize but not necessarily sympathize. Helen Mirren (National Treasure) is one of the good things in the film even though she's underused. At least she has a purpose and spunk. Sienna Guillory (Perfect Life) doesn't have much to do and she spends almost the entire movie as a mute. Jim Broadbent (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is good as the self-aborbed author, but again, his role is very underwritten without much motivation or purpose. Andy Serkis (King Kong) is unfortunate to play a two-dimensional villain, and he overacts. His performance is uninspired and straight out of the rule book.
Adapted from Cornelia Funke's novel by David Linsay-Abaire (Robots), the script is a big mess. The plot lines are all over the place with way too many characters and one-liners. There is absolutely no depth in any of the character and the plot twists are unfocused. The story also feels contrived and predictable. It's a shame because the premise has so much potential, but the result is a trite exercise of fantasy that relies too much on the good vs. evil plot with thin caricatures as characters. Two many characters and plot threads are convoluted, and the whole thing makes it hard for us to identify or care about anyone.
Iain Softley's (The Skeleton Key) direction is adequate but not enough to lift the film from the material. The editing needs work, and some of the special effects are extremely cheesy. The camerawork is in general up to standards and there are some breathtaking sceneries and backdrops. But the look and feel of the film are inconsistent. The pacing is off as well -- there are a few moments when I couldn't help but check my watch. There isn't much tension or suspense; much of it is simply people running around and away from each other.
While the filmmakers' hearts may be in the right place, Inkheart is a sore disappointment and a missed opportunity.
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Sienna Guillory, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Jim Broadbent
Director: Iain Softley
Writers: David Linsay-Abaire (based on Cornelia Funke's novel)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 5.8 out of 10