Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”)
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (“Robots”)
In terms of big-budget family adventures, “Inkheart,” based on the first part of a trilogy by German author Cornelia Funke, would be considered a footnote in the fantasy genre (Not to worry Harry Potter, you’re still more popular than ever). That, however, doesn’t mean all fantasy films that come in between the quests to Hogwarts have to be trivial and dull. In “Inkheart,” there are enough magical moments to warrant the attention of the entire family. Even someone who can’t identify all the storybook references will enjoy the fascinating characters. It’s this year’s answer to films like 2007’s “Stardust.”
In the film, Brendan Fraser (“Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D”) stars as Mortimer “Mo” Folchart, a “Silvertongue” who has the power to read a book and transport its characters into the real world. In doing so, however, each fictional character carried over from a piece of literature is replaced with someone near the reader.
Mo finds this out when he reads from a book called “Inkheart” and unknowingly sucks a diverse group of the novel’s characters from the book causing his wife to mysteriously disappear. The book’s characters who enter reality include a fire juggler named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and Capricorn (Andy Serkis), the antagonist of the story who loves Earth and refuses to return to his narrative.
Instead, Capricorn would rather stay and force Mo to read to him and deliver riches from stories like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Capricorn’s current reader, who also possesses the same power as Mo, hasn’t quite perfected his craft. Since he has a stutter, the characters he brings from out of the books have defects. Most of them have text tattooed across their faces and bodies.
Although Mo refuses to read at first, Capricorn and his henchmen use his daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) as collateral until he delivers what they want. All Mo wants is to find a copy of “Inkheart” so he can figure a way to bring back his wife. But since the book has been out of print for years, he must search for its author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) and get another rare copy before Capricorn finds out how to release some of the book’s most evil characters.
Reminiscent of last year’s “Bedtime Stories” but with an actual script that has some imagination, some of your favorite fictional characters are brought to life by director Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”). From the flying monkeys of “The Wizard of Oz” to the ticking crocodile from “Peter Pan” to Rapunzel and her head of long golden hair, “Inkheart” has wonderful visuals and a convincing cast that includes Oscar winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) as Meggie’s frantic aunt. While the story won’t become a classic like “The Princess Bride,” studios could always do a lot worse (and consistently do) when creating something clever enough for adults and entertaining enough for children.