Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Inkheart (2008)

Sometimes it is an advantage not to be familiar with the novel on which a film is based, since one is inclined to complain about what has been omitted. At other times some familiarity might be helpful in order to comprehend what seems a somewhat sketchy tale that doesn't quite hang together -- and that is the case here with this adaptation of German author Cornelia Funke's fantasy.

Brendan Fraser, the author's insistant choice for the lead, plays a "book'doctor" and "silvertongue" -- someone who literally can make a book come alive when reading aloud. Some years before while reading 'Inkheart' to his young daughter, he allowed Paul Bettany's fire-juggler and Andy Serkis' dastardly villain to escape from its pages, but lost his beloved wife into the book as some sort of literary quid pro quo. Some eleven years on he drags his now teenaged daughter around the world looking for another copy of the volume so that he can read his wife back out, pursued by Bettany who wants to be read back in, and Serkis who wants to use Fraser's skills to acquire more riches in the human world that he has come to love. En route they meet up with an eccentric aunt played by Helen Mirren, usually the epitome of older-woman chic, but here made up as an eccentric old hag, although ultimately quite jolly with it, Jim Broadbent's absent-minded author, and a potential love-interest for the daughter when a handsome, young thief is read out of The Arabian Nights. Then it turns out that the daughter has inherited her father's skill when she is able to conjure up Toto from the Wizard of Oz, causing Serkis and his ink-stained minions (read out by a stutterer!) to capture her to serve their evil plans. That everything ends up more or less hunky-dory is down to movie-making skills rather than logic of any discernible kind.

By and large this was pretty enjoyable, and if it serves to lead youngsters to read more (a la Harry Potter), so much the better. However I couldn't help but feel that something was missing from the mix to make this the magical experience it might have been.
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