by HELEN GEIB
Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) is a Silvertongue, a person born with the mysterious power to read fictional characters off the page and into the real world. The power is unpredictable and hard to control, and its exercise carries a price: when a fictional character comes out of the book, a real person goes in.
Mo discovered he possessed this power under tragic circumstances nine years before the story begins. Reading aloud to his wife and young daughter from a fantasy novel called “Inkheart,” he conjured a juggler called Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) with the ability to create fire in the palm of his hand and a megalomaniac villain called Capricorn (Andy Serkis) with a knife-wielding henchman. Mo’s wife went into the book in exchange; he has spent the years since searching for another copy of the book to read her out again. The task has been complicated by Dustfinger, who wants the Silvertongue to return him into “Inkheart” so he can be reunited with his own wife, and even more by Capricorn, who has been busily burning copies of “Ínkheart” because he doesn’t want to leave this world with its modern conveniences and seemingly limitless opportunities for plunder.
Although Mo and his now 12 year old daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) are the stars of the story, the members of the supporting cast do everything they can to steal the show. Bettany succeeds with a dynamic performance as Dustfinger; easily the most complex character on offer, he is given to existential laments over the way he was written. (Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that he can shoot fire from his hands, or that he is accompanied everywhere he goes by a loveable and resourceful pet ferret.) Serkis, Helen Mirren as Mo’s bibliophile aunt Elinor, and Jim Broadbent as the eccentric author of “Inkheart” each manage to steal a scene or two as well.
I was not entirely happy with Inkheart. It has a great premise and a good story (the film is adapted from a novel by Cornelius Funke) and it is clear a great deal of care went into its making, but it lacks vitality. Watching it reminded me of the experience of watching the similarly enjoyable, yet uninspiring The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; the effects-laden set-pieces overwhelm the production.
Nevertheless, this is a good family film and I certainly encourage any parents reading this review to take their children (late elementary and up) to see it. I recommend it especially for the positive representation of books and the life of the imagination. All of the real world characters love to read and surround themselves with books; Mo is a professional book mender and Elinor an avid rare books collector. Meggie dreams of being a writer and saves the day by finding the right words to change the world. The movie is chock-full of literary references and jokes. The characters out of “Inkheart” are joined by characters (and objects) out of classic novels and fairy tales, including Toto, one of the forty thieves, the Minotaur, and a unicorn. When a Silvertongue walks through a library, the books call out asking to be read by reciting famous passages.