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  Publicity Stills of "Inkheart"
(Courtesy of Warner Bros)

Director: Iain Softley
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, Eliza Hope Bennett, Rafi Gavron, Sienna Guillory
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.inkheartmovie.com/

Opening Day: 22 January 2009


Based on the book by Cornelia Funke, "Inkheart" is a timeless adventure tale of imagination that centers on Meggie, a young girl whose father has a secret ability to bring characters from books to life when he reads them aloud. But when a power-hungry villain from a rare children's fable kidnaps Meggie's father to bring others out of the boundaries of fiction, she and a disparate group of friends both real and magic embark on the kind of adventure she has only read about in books to save him and set things right.

Movie Review:

Something happens when ‘silver tongues’ read a book. It comes to life- well, at least the characters do. But for every storybook character that is freed from the shackles of the pages, someone from our world gets trapped in the fictional realm.

Inkheart is the story of one such silver-tongue, Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser), whose wife Resa (Sienna Guillory) is now within the pages of a book (incidentally also titled Inkheart) after he accidentally reads it aloud without knowledge of the powers he possesses. It is also an adaptation of the first book of the fantasy trilogy by bestselling German author Cornelia Funke.

No doubt the story and its characters have been brought to the big screen; whether they are in the process brought to life is however questionable. Because this adaptation by director Iain Softley and Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist David Lindsay Abaire doesn’t quite leap off the pages as one would expect it to.

Much has to do with the difficulty of translating the hefty source material into a 105-minute feature film. Not only is there a lot going on, there are also plenty of characters tightly compressed into this brisk telling. As a result, the story seems to rush from one location to another, breathless to the point that it fails to stop and let its audience absorb its finer interesting details- like how the characters brought to life by a stuttering ‘silver tongue’ still have the words of the book stained across their faces.

The breakneck pace of the plot-driven story also fails to develop the book’s many characters. Mo Folchart becomes less the anguished husband searching for the disappearance of his wife than another Brendan Fraser adventurer running from one point to another. Faring worse is Mo’s daughter’s distant aunt Elinor Loredan (Helen Mirren) and the book’s author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) who are reduced to just sideshows to lighten up the proceedings.

What the movie does get right is the many cheeky references to classic children’s books. Avid readers will definitely have a field day identifying famous quotes from popular literature and spotting their many iconic representations as well- including the flying monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz” and Rapunzel from (well) Rapunzel. (Were it not for copyright issues, I’m sure we’d probably be seeing more.)

The many themes in the book are also retained in this adaptation, though to varying degrees of success. There is that of fascism, what with the reminder of the power of the written word and the burning of books by the power-hungry Capricorn (Andy Serkis). But the most fleshed out theme is that of fate, as exemplified by Dustfinger’s (Paul Bettany) resolve to be better than the selfish character he has been written to be in Fenoglio’s book.

Thanks to an energetic and lively cast, Inkheart also receives a boost of adrenaline. Brendan Fraser is likeable as always, but he is outshone by an ensemble supporting cast. Helen Mirren is delightful as the eccentric Elinor and Andy Serkis injects gleeful malice and smarminess into the role of despicable Capricorn. The scene-stealer here is Paul Bettany who lends his character Dustfinger enough gravitas to convey his moral predicament as he struggles with his own self-centred nature.

There is a never a dull moment in the picture- something is always happening somewhere to someone. But fantasy is more than just about adventure- it is equally, if not more, about that sense of wonderment and emotional engagement- both of which unfortunately have failed to make the leap from print to screen. This sadly leaves both readers and viewers yearning for more.

Movie Rating:

(More a hobble than a leap off the pages- this Inkheart could do well with more of the book’s magic)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. Journey To The Centre of the Earth (2008)

. City of Ember (2008)

. Nim's Island (2008)

. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2007)

. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)

. The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007)

. Bridge To Terabithia (2007)

. Charlotte's Web (2006)

. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005)

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