The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Inkheart

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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Inkheart

Despite a title that sounds like it could be a tribute to a tattoo god, Inkheart is a fantasy adventure tale by German novelist Cornelia Funke.  In her world, there are individuals who possess the rare gift of making a book’s characters come alive by reading from it.  They are called Silvertongues.  In a kind of literary quid pro quo, fictional characters jump into the real world, trading places with hapless human counterparts.

Mortimer “Mo” Folchart (Brendan Fraser), a bookbinder by trade, is also a Silvertongue and single parent, raising twelve-year-old daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennet) without benefit of her mother Resa (Sienna Guillory) because of an unfortunate oral rendition of Inkheart nine years earlier, when the poor woman was sucked into the story, while three of its characters were simultaneously released into the real world, taking the book with them.  Folchart’s been searching for a volume of Inkheart ever since to retrieve her.

One of the story’s characters, the evil Capricorn (Andy Serkis) happens to find life in the real world to his liking.  His discovery of duct tape is especially rewarding.  He enslaves Silvertongues (one of them stutters, causing all kinds of consternation), amassing criminal cohorts from various stories as well as vast riches.  He builds himself a medieval castle in which to reign while carrying out his mission to destroy all copies of Inkheart so that he can remain in the real world, eventually taking it over.  Seems criminals, whether real or imagined, have this one career goal every time.

Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a fire juggler, has been yanked out of Inkheart and wants to return to the story.  He’s been tracking Folchart and finds him and Meggie in Switzerland where a rare volume is located and a confrontation occurs.  Meggie has an eccentric Great-Aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) who is along for the adventure and to express outrage at every turn.

Events go from puzzling to alarming when Meggie is kidnapped by Capricorn and his henchman Basta (Jamie Foreman) who want to hold her captive, thereby harnessing Mo’s Sivertongue power to bring criminal elements (and one very large creature) out of literature.  The winged monkeys from The Wizard of Oz make an appearance, as does the ticking crocodile from Peter Pan.

The rest of the film has Folchart, Elinor, and Inkheart’s author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) joining forces with Dustfinger to thwart Capricorn and rescue Meggie, who, it is discovered, has Silvertongue powers of her own.  Add to all of this the discovery of Resa somewhere in Capricorn’s castle and you have a multi-plotline story that is uninteresting in any one of them.

Brendan Fraser has become typecast as the fantasy movie hero in a succession of hit-and-miss films, competent in his ability to play it straight amid fantastic circumstances.  Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent heroically try to inject some color into their characters.  Eliza Hope Bennett and Sienna Guillory are simply adequate in their respective roles.  Paul Bettany creates a sympathetic Dustfinger, but it’s hard even to root for him.  Andy Serkis plays the usual one-note villain as best he can.

Director Iain Softley (K-Pax) is heavy on CGI and special effects, but light on character development.  There’s a lot to follow and remember and you’ll start to wonder if it’s worth all the trouble.  These characters never seem to reach us in a way that makes us care about them.  While Inkheart’s premise is novel, its execution is protracted and tedious.

Adapted for the screen by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist David Lindsay-Abaire ("Robots,") the film keeps the audience disconnected from its protagonists fostering only alienation and apathy, instead of participation and engagement.

The story itself possesses original and magical elements and should have worked; its descent into mediocrity is disappointing.  Maybe a few cinematic Silvertongues could have made a difference here, banishing the mundane aspects to other screenplays and summoning a cast of characters that connect with the audience in a way that facilitates investment in the action instead of simply witnessing it.