Movie Review: Inkheart (2009)

Photo: New Line Cinema

Once upon a time a man named Mo (Brendan Fraser) had an unfortunate curse. Every time he read a book aloud the characters from that world came into the real world and sent someone from the real world back into the book. This is how Mo came to lose his wife and is now raising his daughter (Eliza Bennett) on his own. The two travel the world, scouring bookstores looking for the book his wife is now trapped in, in hopes of reading her back out.

You may already be poking holes in the logic of everything I have just written, and logically Inkheart is a torture storm. If you worry yourself with the whys and hows of this tale your head will be spinning. Like how a group of fairy tale bad guys manage to buy a mountainside castle or what exactly happens in the “Wizard of Oz” once the tornado, Dorothy’s house and Toto are “read out” of the story? It’s a conundrum for sure, but it also seems like anyone smart enough to ask such questions is probably not the target audience.

Yup, Inkheart is another January release for the kids, but make sure they aren’t too young or you are going to be shushing away the characters from your bedtime stories for months to come. The violence is slim and the film’s biggest baddie is a black smoke cloud, hardly threatening. Paul Bettany plays a man named Dustfinger and he can control fire while Andy Serkis is the film’s biggest human baddie and he just struts around and talks loud while others do his bidding for some unknown reason.

Inkheart is based on the Cornelia Funke novel of the same name and I have no idea how that reads considering I had never heard of the book before the movie, but I hope it isn’t as sloppy, choppy and needless as this film is. Inkheart seems to come out of the Hollywood need to continue to find a fantasy franchise that brings in Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter bucks. Unfortunately they all feel like carbon copies save a few notable exceptions such as Stardust and Pan’s Labyrinth.

Iain Softley directs and just like his previous film, Skeleton Key, this one brings nothing new to the table and it feels lazy doing it. I know I said this film is for kids, but it seems fruitless to make a movie for children and not even try to tell a compelling story. As much as I appreciated his attempt to instantly thrust the audience into the story I was just as quickly left with an empty feeling once I realized there wasn’t much more to tell.

Perhaps the strangest thing about it all is the way Mo’s ability is considered a “gift”. You will notice I used the word “curse” in the opening sentence of this review because that’s all this really is. At what time would it be fun or even useful to bring fictional characters out of books while sending real world characters into them? Sure, maybe sentence your personal nemesis to an existence trapped within the pages of a Stephen King novel, but just what exactly are you going to bring out? Perhaps if the film had taken that approach to the story as opposed to a softball lob this film would have been more interesting, but as it stands it is just another effects film that does very little to service the audience.

GRADE: D+

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