A literary fantasy with a charm deficit, Inkheart is top-heavy with postcard-pretty Italian locations, undistinguished digital beasties, and clunky, one-note humans. Based on the first in a bestselling series of children’s novels by Cornelia Funke, it tracks the adventures of 12-year-old Meggie Folchart (solemn Eliza Hope Bennett) and her bookbinder father Mo (brow-knotted Brendan Fraser) as they clash with fictional characters, both good and evil, who’ve come popping out of the titular tome. Homesick, long-tressed fire juggler Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and barrel-shaped baddie leader Capricorn (Andy Serkis) coerce Meggie’s father with blackmail and abduction, respectively; Mo is a “Silvertongue” whose reading of the book to his daughter nine years earlier sent them from the page into reality and propelled his since-missing wife into the realm of print. Essentially a series of chases interrupted for far too long with glowering stare-offs between the male principals and underwhelming character clowning from Helen Mirren as Meggie’s clucking bibliophile aunt, Inkheart hardly ever makes the particulars of its world seem enchanting, consistent, or funny. (An exception is stock villain Serkis hissing about what he loves best about three-dimensional life: power, riches, and duct tape.) Director Iain Softley and adapter David Lindsay-Abaire grind their way through dungeons, magic invocations, and a labored Götterdämmerung of a finale with the lightness and grace of a military campaign. That one of Capricorn’s other imprisoned Silvertongues is a stutterer who can only “read out” mute or misshapen characters is just one distasteful fillip; somehow, the reliable Jim Broadbent manages to be unappealing as a dotty fantasy writer, and it’s a chore even to suspend disbelief that a girl raised by Fraser would retain her English accent.
- Iain Softley
- David Lindsay-Abaire
- Brendan Fraser, Eliza Hope Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Jim Broadbent
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