Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett), is a 12 year old whose father Mo (Brendan Fraser) has a secret ability to bring characters from books alive when he reads aloud. An accidental transfer has resulted in Meggie's mother, Resa (Sienna Guillory) being caught inside a book's fantasy. When a power-hungry villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis) from a rare children's fable kidnaps Meggie's father to bring others out of the confines of fiction to empower himself, she and a disparate group of friends both real and magic embark on the kind of adventure she has only read about to save him and hopefully find her mother.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's a shortage of magic in this adventure fantasy, and despite some good elements including its spectacular Italian settings and a solid cast, this adaptation of Cornelia Funke's novel about storybook characters prised from their world, is a bit of a blot. Admittedly, it's hard to be too tough on a film that champions books and using one's imagination. Besides there's Helen Mirren as the book-obsessed Great-Aunt who lives in a stunning villa on Lake Como, and who travels to locations such as Persia, Paris and Middle Earth without leaving her library. But there are holes in the plot, which increase in magnitude as the story progresses, until finally, after a climactic finale involving a bonanza of visual effects, I was rather glad the adventure was over.
The casting of Brendan Fraser is the film's first problem. This versatile actor deserves better roles and is not really suited to the role of Mo (aka Silvertongue), the loving single father book-doctor who discovers strange things happen when he reads aloud. Andy Serkis (better known as Gollum) plays the villainous Capricorn, but there's nothing real or terrifying about this Inkheart storybook character endowed with hubris, who has become accustomed to a life of decadence and power in the real world. Each time Capricorn or his henchmen appear, instead of feeling terror, I yawned. Eliza Bennett is impressive as 12 year old Meggie (but why does she have an English accent?) and the talented Paul Bettany (with a constantly worried look) is wasted as fire-juggling Dustfinger, whose onscreen wife is played by his offscreen wife Jennifer Connelly in a cameo.
I like the idea of the storyline about Farid, one of Ali Baba's 40 thieves (played by darkly handsome Rafi Gavron), who quickly makes use of his pickpocket skills, and Sienna Guillory is likeable enough as Meggie's long-lost mother Resa who finds herself swallowed up by and locked in the obtuse storybook. Jim Broadbent is always a welcome presence; here he has little to do as bumbling author Fenoglio. The Italian location of Liguria with its mountain villages, seaside towns, cobbled streets and stone establishments are stunning, but the film has little emotional impact. We are always on the sidelines instead of being right in the heart of the action, when our hearts would no doubt have been involved.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There's nothing terribly wrong with Inkheart but it just doesn't quite engage us; the fantasy world is beautifully conjured up, and the real world locations in Italy are jawdroppingly beautiful. The story has traction, and potentially a certain charm: imagine your father reading a fairytale only to have the characters and places appear before your eyes. All very well as long as it's not about evil beings and deadly violence.... Which of course most stories are.
Yet the story telling falters as director Iain Softley waffles with the elements, allowing far too much chopping about both in camera and in editing. We are unable to associate with any of the characters we should be rooting for, despite the fact that the cast is pretty impressive. Helen Mirren gives a specially lively performance as Elinor, owner of a unique collection of books, and Paul Bettany is terrific as Dustfinger, one of the characters trying hard to get back inside his book.
Andy Serkis is all sneers and snarls as evil Capricorn, and I rather like his villainous portrayal. Less impressive is Brendan Fraser, who seems to have carbon copied several of his part roles as an adventuring hero. Young Eliza Hope Bennett is fresh faced and credible as Meggie, and the film looks splendid, the effects are terrific, costumes and setting lavish, lovely ... etc. But the film just doesn't satisfy.
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CAST: Brendan Fraser, Sienna Guillroy, Eliza Hope Bennett, Richard Strange, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Jennifer Connelly, Andy Serkis, Rafi Gavron, Matt King
PRODUCER: Cornelia Funke, Ileen Maisel, Diana Pokorny, Iain Softley
DIRECTOR: Iain Softley
SCRIPT: David Lindsay-Abair (novel by Cornelia Funke)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Pratt
EDITOR: Martin Walsh
MUSIC: Javier Navarrette
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Beard
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 2, 2009