Film Review: Inkheart (2008)

Inkheart is a German, British and American co-production that hit screens over a decade ago to little fanfare. This family adventure fantasy film is based on the book of the same name by Cornelia Funke, a German writer of children’s literature. In adapting the tale to the big screen, Inkheart has an impressive cast. Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, and Paul Bettany star, with supporting performances by Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, and Andy Serkis. Jennifer Connelly even makes a cameo. These are some heavy hitters in this little film.

Inkheart is essentially the tale of silvertongues, people who have the inexplicable ability to bring words to life when they read aloud. But bringing words to life is not without its dangers, its costs, and its repercussions.

The Accidental Silvertongue

The movie opens on an idyllic scene of a young family, cozy together on a dark night. A father reads to his young child, while his wife listens. But something strange happens as he reads…

Fast forward twelve years, and the young father, Mortimer “Mo” Folchart (Fraser), is cruising around the mountains of Europe in a Volkswagon van with his daughter, Meggie (Bennett). His wife is not with them. They travel from bookshop to bookshop, searching for a rare book. Mortimer is known as the book doctor, repairing books. The book he’s searching for whispers to him from the bookshop. Inkheart is its name.

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Yet, even as he finds the sought-after book in the shop, his daughter meets a mysterious man and his pet marten in the market outside. He knows her, speaking of things she does not understand. He is Dustfinger (Bettany), and he confronts Mortimer, demanding that Mo read him back into the book. Mortimer flees with his daughter. But not before Dustfinger threatens to bring in Capricorn. The very mention of the name terrifies Mo.

Meggie demands to know what’s going on. Apparently safe with an eccentric aunt, Elinor (Mirren), Mortimer finally decides to tell his daughter the truth. The truth of her missing mother, of the significance of this book, of his silvertongued abilities. But they’re not safe at Elinor’s. Capricorn’s goons find them, take them hostage and lead them to Capricorn’s castle in the mountains. Capricorn (Serkis) has plans for Mo. Just who or what Capricorn is – that’s something that I’ll leave to the movie to explain.

And the story goes from there – book characters read into existence fight to remain and/or return. Is Meggie’s mother to be found in the pages of a book and saved? Will the original writer of Inkheart (Broadbent) write a new ending? Can characters return to their pages?

Entertainment in Need of Editing

The premise of Inkheart is very engaging. And the heavyweights in this production are scene stealers. Helen Mirren’s Aunt Elinor is a cantankerous delight. Brendan Fraser’s Mo is in near Mummy form, without the pithy lines. Paul Bettany’s Dustfinger is the Byronic bad boy. And Andy Serkis’s Capricorn has a Gollum-like glee without the CGI.

The scenery is lovely, the production value high. Yes, there are many things going for Inkheart.

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But, unfortunately, it just never seems to gel. Oh, it’s watchable and entertaining in its way, but it’s missing a certain flow. It’s choppy at certain times and lagging at others, especially the ending which just seems to drag on and on and on. I don’t know if that’s the fault of the source material. I suspect it’s the scriptwriter or the director. The adaptation of this award-winning children’s novel, the first of a trilogy, falls a bit flat. But it has enticed me to seek out the book.

Inkheart is neither here nor there – not great, not terrible, just meh.

Content Note: Rated PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language.

Where to Watch: DVD.

Have you seen Inkheart? What are your thoughts on this fantasy film?

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

OVERALL RATING

three corset rating

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce

me. Aren’t you?”

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