** (out of 5)
January 23, 2009
Brendan Fraser as MO FOLCHART
Sienna Guillory as RESA
Eliza Hope Bennett as MEGGIE FOLCHART
Paul Bettany as DUSTFINGER
Helen Mirren as ELINOR LOREDAN
Andy Serkis as CAPRICORN
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Iain Softley
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Ever since the “Harry Potter” franchise tore through the box office, studios have been looking for the next big thing to adapt from children’s fantasy literature. With digital effects giving moviemakers the ability to present fantasy worlds like never before, the market has been flooded with these new attempts.
Sadly, few have come close to living up to the “Harry Potter” name. Even the quite excellent “Narnia” series stumbled at the box office last summer, sending the future of the other five books into a nosedive. Other attempts, like Fox/Walden’s “Eragon” and “Seeker: The Dark Is Rising” to other studio disappointments like “Stardust” and “The Last Mimzy,” have been quite mediocre in their presentation.
“Inkheart” is the latest in film adaptation of best-selling stories, brought to life by New Line Cinema in a last ditch effort before the studio was rolled up into Warner Bros. proper. The story is great on concept, but it never quite delivers what we are promised in the trailers.
The film tells the story of a girl named Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) and her father Mo (Brendan Fraser) who travel the world, searching for rare books. The daughter doesn’t know this, but her dad has the magical ability to bring characters (and various other things, it turns out) to life from the book simply by reading it.
When Mo discovers a copy of the book, he is immediately targeted by Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), one of the characters brought to life from it years ago. Mo and Meggie try to escape to a safe place where they can bring Meggie’s mother back from the book, in which she had been trapped when Dustfinger came through. However, Dustfinger is so desperate to get home that he alerts one of the book’s villains to their presence.
Unfortunately, Brendan Fraser’s other New Line Cinema adventure release (last year’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”) had a much stronger impact for family viewing. At the very least, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” had the 3D gimmick to stand behind it. The film may not have been the most smartly plotted flick to come out of that studio, but it was a hoot to watch with the kids.
“Inkheart,” on the other hand, is a real dud with no pizzazz. Just when the magic starts to show up and give the film hope, we’re yanked back in the real world with mundane conversation and meandering, unrealistic characters.
I’m not sure how the book read, but I’m sure things looked much better on the page. I would have expected an epic fantasy, giving us many scenes in the fantasy world of books before slowing things down with a run-of-the-mill kidnapping plot. Instead, the only connection to the literary world are a few poorly-constructed henchmen and a couple fantasy creatures kept in a dungeon.
When the fantasy elements are finally unleashed in the relatively exciting climax, it was too little too late.
Additionally, there’s not many surprises in the story, and even the all-too-clever plot twist is telegraphed long before it happens. Finally, when the characters figure out a way to combat the evil with which they’re presented, the solution is so obvious that I fail to see how anyone had such dim wits as to not figure it out earlier.
For the effects spectacle, the film works to a degree, but the vast majority of the humdrum plot might leave more kids asleep rather than engaged.