Thursday, September 20, 2012

Inkheart (2008)


When Mo Folchart reads aloud, books come alive. No, really. If he reads about treasure, treasure appears. If he reads about a bloodthirsty villain, look out--a bloodthirsty villain just might pop up and knock you on the head. This talent is, as you can imagine, quite valuable to certain unpleasant people--people who are determined to make the most of Mo's gift. But there's a problem. Well, two problems. First, Mo can't control what comes out of the book. If he's reading Ali Baba's adventures in 1001 Arabian Nights, for example, you might wind up with treasure. You might also wind up with one or more of the forty thieves, or with more sand than you know what to do with. The second problem is even worse: for everything that comes out of a book, something from the real world must go in. Mo discovered this terrible side-effect years before, when he was reading aloud to his daughter Meggie . . . and his wife Teresa disappeared from sight. Turns out she was sucked into the book he was reading: Inkheart. Mo's determined to read her back out again, but he's having a devil of a time locating a copy of the book. And no wonder--the villain Capricorn, accidentally read out by Mo, has been methodically tracking down and destroying all the copies of the book he can find. Meanwhile, carnival performer Dustfinger, also read out by Mo, is desperate to be read back into the story where he belongs. With the assistance of Mo's book-loving great aunt Elinor, Mo and Meggie (and occasionally Dustfinger) must find a way to vanquish Capricorn and put everything (and everyone) back where it belongs.

This movie really should have been better than it was.

Brendan Fraser was apparently Cornelia Funke's inspiration for the character of Mo, so I'm sure she was tickled pink that he played the role in the film. Then again, if you're Brendan Fraser, it's probably pretty exciting (and possibly surprising) to learn that you inspired someone to write a book--or a character, anyway. It's not like they knew each other--in the special features, Brendan Fraser recalls receiving a copy of the book from Funke and wondering who she was. I have no idea which of his roles inspired her so--The Mummy? Blast from the Past? George of the Jungle? Dudley Do-Right?

Fortunately, Brendan Fraser does a perfectly serviceable job in the film. And really, the rest of the cast reads like a dream come true: Paul Bellamy as the fire-manipulating (and occasionally less than trustworthy) Dustfinger; Helen Mirren as Aunt Elinor; Jim Broadbent as the rather arrogant author of Inkheart; and Andy Serkis as the cruel villain Capricorn. Yet somehow all that awesome added up to just . . . meh. (Also, Paul Bellamy and Helen Mirren didn't really look like themselves. For the first half of the movie, I genuinely thought the characters were being played by people who just looked a lot like Paul Bellamy and Helen Mirren. But no--it's really them. They just look . . . 'off' some of the time. It was very strange.)

It certainly doesn't help that they tweaked the ending a bit--not only is Meggie possessed of her father's talent for reading, she apparently can also write things and then read them into existence. Whatever the reason, the whole think felt too showy--sort of long of sparkle and short on substance, which was definitely not my reaction to the book. Maybe a darker tone would have worked better, though I suppose that might be too much for the young viewers that were undoubtedly the target of the film.

It was certainly fun to see Fraser playing the role Funke wrote for him, and I welcome any opportunity to see Paul Bellamy at work. And you know I love me some Helen Mirren (though she was better in RED). But really, I think you're better off just reading the book.

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