Directed by: Iain Softley
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Eliza Hope Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Rafi Gavron
Rated: PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments, and brief language
Parental Notes: Very young children may find the end sequence, which features a giant monster made of ash clouds and fire, too frightening, but kids who can enjoy the first few Harry Potter movies will be right at home.
Anyone with a fondness for books knows the way characters come alive when we read, or when we are read to. But what if you could make them literally come alive and walk around, as real as you are? In “Inkheart,” some people, called silvertongues, can do just that, and the film follows one of them as he tries to deal with the repercussions of turning a handful of characters from a fantasy novel loose in our world. It’s a wonderful tale for young adults and for book lovers of any age.
Mo (Brendan Fraser) is a silvertongue, and he and his daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) are traveling around Europe in search of a very rare book so that Mo can put right something he did by accident a long time ago: he read several people out of a book, and read Resa, his beloved wife and Meggie’s mother, into it. Others are in search of the book as well: Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a fire juggler who was read out of the book and desperately wants to go home, and Capricorn (Andy Serkis), a bandit lord who likes being in our world just fine, thanks, and wants to destroy every copy so he can never be sent back.
Capricorn also wants to get his hands on Mo — he has a captive silvertongue already, but the man isn’t a very good reader, and the beings he draws out of books don’t always come out properly. Mo, however, is an excellent reader, and Capricorn is more than willing to use Meggie for leverage to get his most powerful servant, a terrifying creature of ashes and fire called The Shadow, brought into our world. Mo and Meggie have a few tricks up their sleeve, however, as well as the ability to persuade some of the people they run across to help them.
There’s much dashing about and rescuing of people by the end of the tale, and the entire film is packed with magical creatures and interesting characters. True, the tale is fairly predictable to anyone familiar with the common tropes of fantasy stories, but it has the advantage of a pair of strong female characters and a premise that comes right out of a bookworm’s daydreams.
The roles aren’t particularly challenging, but the acting is solid. In a fantasy film, provided the acting isn’t laughably bad (and with folks like Brendan Fraser, Andy Serkis, and Helen Mirren, you know it’s not) and the dialog is reasonably good (which it is), what really matters is the special effects. The effects here are excellent. The all-CGI animals tend to flash past rather than linger so that they trick the eye better, and The Shadow is appropriately frightening. The effects when things are read out of and into books are simple and work well.
Sure to be popular with kids who love books, and possibly even able to lure book-unfriendly kids into the fold, “Inkheart” is also thoroughly watchable for adults. It’s not great art or a challenging intellectual film. It’s what it sets out to be: an entertaining and enjoyable fantasy for book lovers.