Editors' pick

Inkheart

MPAA rating: PG
Genre: Family
Brendan Fraser stars in this adaptation of the popular novel, about a father and his 12-year-old daughter who embark on a fantasy adventure when the books they love come to life.
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Sienna Guillory, Eliza Bennett
Director: Iain Softley
Running time: 1:45
Release: Opened Jan 23, 2009
'

Editorial Review

"Inkheart," Iain Softley's vivid, sometimes lurid adaptation of the young people's novel by Cornelia Funke, manages a neat trick of indirection. Filmgoers may go to this fantasy adventure, which stars Brendan Fraser and Eliza Hope Bennett, thinking that they will be captivated by the bookbinder and his 12-year-old daughter. Instead, "Inkheart" is completely dominated by its ensemble of supporting players, including the marvelous Paul Bettany and Helen Mirren.

The aesthetics of "Inkheart" are part of what make it such a surprisingly enjoyable experience to watch.

Fraser plays Mortimer "Mo" Folchart, a "silvertongue" who can make stories come to life by reading them aloud.

Mo and daughter Meggie (Bennett) travel to a Swiss town to search for an obscure novel called "Inkheart," which he was reading to Meggie when she was a toddler and things went desperately awry. One clue to what happened lies with Dustfinger (Bettany), a smoldering fire juggler.

The search takes them to the home of Meggie's great-aunt Elinor (Mirren), who lives in a villa in Italy. A troop of henchmen takes the family back to Capricorn (Andy Serkis), another silvertongue. Mo, Meggie and Elinor are imprisoned alongside a ticking crocodile, a unicorn and a flotilla of flying monkeys, characters who have been "read out" of books by Capricorn.

The plot of "Inkheart" is so bursting and busy that it's occasionally impossible to follow, although fans of the book will no doubt complain that too much has been left out. Bettany's performance is nothing short of a revelation. In a movie that could easily be tossed quickly aside as a pleasant but disposable diversion, Bettany commits an act of serious acting, imbuing Dustfinger with generous doses of angst, sensitivity and dour humor.

For the young people in its demographic wheelhouse, "Inkheart" packs a welcome amount of entertainment value, creating a genuinely original world of enchantment when that territory has otherwise been colonized by the imperial forces of Hogwarts and Middle Earth. "Inkheart" has a flag to plant, too -- and it has a style and snap all its own.


-- Ann Hornaday (Jan. 23, 2009)
Contains fantasy adventure action, scary moments and brief profanity.