- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
nkheart” has all of the makings of a smart children’s fantasy movie. The story takes place in the world of books, which means the protagonists don’t have to be strong, or fast, or cunning in order to escape their dilemma; they just have to use their imaginations, and I applaud anything that encourages children to think big. Unfortunately, the grown-ups let this charming young adult adventure down, which is really saying something considering you have two British master thespians, one an Oscar winner, getting out-acted by Gollum and a 15-year-old girl.
Brendan Fraser stars as Mo Folchart, a book buyer who happens to be a Silvertongue, meaning he has the ability to bring the written word to life. He discovers this ability the hard way while reading an out-of-print medieval fantasy book called “Inkheart” to his wife and daughter, and brings a flamethrower named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) out of the book while sending his wife Resa (Sienna Guillory) into it. The villain of the book, Capricorn (Andy Serkis), has entered our world as well through other means, and plans to use Mo to bring out his best weapon, a smoke monster called the Shadow. Mo, his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett), Dustfinger, and the author of “Inkheart” (Jim Broadbent) team up to put a stop to Capricorn’s dastardly plan and send Dustfinger home to his wife.
An open letter to any studio that wants Brendan Fraser to star in their next action/adventure: have you seen Nathan Fillion? With apologies to Fraser – he seems like a decent enough guy, but he can be a bit clumsy with his delivery (see his “You can rule…in hell” bit in “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”) – Fillion is the real poor man’s Harrison Ford, and he would have been a huge upgrade here. Also, did they really need Helen Mirren to play Mo’s aunt Elinor? She’s a fringe character from start to finish, and looks out of place here. Broadbent is also not on his game, as if he’s playing down to the material. Serkis, however, shines as the deadpan Capricorn, and Eliza Bennett is quite the find as Meggie. She outperforms her screen parents, that’s for sure.
The other thing about “Inkheart” is that despite our heroes spending a significant amount of time locked up or in danger, there is little suspense. Indeed, Mo and his motley crew can seemingly come and go from Capricorn’s castle at will, with no consequences. On the heels of last year’s far superior “Spiderwick Chronicles,” this is a fatal mistake. When the big finale arrives, it looks impressive, but isn’t near as threatening as it’s supposed to be.
New Line has hit the kid’s market pretty hard in the last few years, with almost nothing to show for their efforts (“The Last Mimzy,” “How to Eat Fried Worms,” “Martian Child,” “Hoot”). It’s as if they forget their origins as a genre studio – they are, after all, The House That Freddy Built – or became so drunk with confidence after the “Lord of the Rings” movies that they thought they could spin any book series into gold. “Inkheart” was never going to give Peter Jackson’s movies a run for their money, but it should have turned out better than this. I would suggest that they either give these movies the talent they require to succeed (better cast, stronger director), or abandon them altogether and re-embrace their horror roots. There’s another “Final Destination” movie coming out this August (in 3-D, no less). That’s a good start.
Special Edition Blu-Ray Review:
Based on the deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray release of “Inkheart,” it’s no wonder the film’s release was delayed in order to accommodate reshoots. This is a movie that clearly had no direction during the course of production, and though the final product is definitely better, it’s easy to see why it bombed so badly at the box office. The addition of a DVD copy of the film certainly adds some value to the two-disc set, but the special features are so stupid that they won’t be repeated here.