Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Brendan Fraser, Sienna Guillory, Eliza Hope Bennett, Richard Strange, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Matt King, Steve Speirs, Jamie Foreman, Stephen Graham, Mirabel O'Keefe, Andy Serkis, John Thomson, Lesley Sharp, Tereza Srbova, Rafi Gavron, Jennifer Connelly, Jim Broadbent, Roger Allam|
|Producer:||Internationale Filmproduktion Blackbird Dritte, New Line Cinema, Toby Emmerich, Cornelia Funke, Ute Leonhardt, Ileen Maisel, Ileen Maisel, Mark Ordesky, Diana Pokorny, Iain Softley|
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“Every story ever written is just waiting to become real.”
In 2004 Cornelia Funke’s book, INKHEART impressed many. Her story about a father who reads to his baby daughter, and in so doing somehow causes the fictional characters within the book to not just come to life on the page, but transfer over the boundaries of fiction into the real world, is enchanting. Having this gift can be a magical opportunity for everyone involved to enjoy the fictional escapades they always dreamed of. But in the case of Inkheart, when the father reads the words, not only will a fictional character transfer into the real world, a human being must take their place. The trade often is permanent, as the book never reveals where the human subject transfers to. The reader could search forever and never find the loved one who has been traded off.
For Mortimer “Mo” Folchart (Brendan Fraser), a man known as a ‘silvertongue’ able to bring forth magical beings off the pages of books just by reading aloud, his gift becomes a nine year quest to find the book titled Inkheart, which he happened to be reading aloud one night to his little daughter Maggie (Eliza Hope Bennett). On that fateful evening, his young wife Resa (Sienna Guillory) was the chosen human to be taken by the book in exchange for a fire juggler named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and the evil villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis). We are never told who was the exchange for Capricorn, but from the story set before us on the screen, they may or may not be enjoying their stay in fiction-land.
Mo, who hasn’t read aloud for nine years, takes Maggie, who was just an infant at the time of her mother’s disappearance—so doesn’t remember the event—the world over, never revealing to Maggie why he is searching for this one special book. Mo has chosen the profession of a collector and book binder of old and sometimes rare volumes, so other than his obsessive exploration for Inkheart, Maggie just believes her bookworm Dad is eccentric. That is until one day in a book market in Switzerland, Mo finds a copy of Inkheart in a dusty backroom. Just at that same moment the flame juggler, Dustfinger, comes forth and confronts Mo to ‘read him back into the book!’
Mo refuses to do so until he finds and saves his beloved wife and gets her back into the real world. Dustfinger then becomes Mo’s unwanted traveling partner. Still not wanting to tell Maggie the whole story, Mo takes her to live with her quirky Aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) who has sequestered herself in an Italian manor full of rare and exotic books.
One stormy night, as Maggie is curled up at the library window reading, several strange men break into the manor and kidnap Maggie and her family, including the mysterious Dustfinger. After being taken to a brooding castle sprawled high atop a dark mountain, and being thrown into the dungeon, Mo finally reveals his “gift” as a silvertongue to Maggie. Mo explains that the evil Capricorn has her Mother held captive somewhere in the keep. Capricorn craves more treasure than the real world can give and has captured Mo to read all the treasure from every book ever written to add to his insidious nest egg. The evil Capricorn promises harm to Maggie if Mo doesn’t oblige his ravenous commands!
Mo, Maggie, Dustfinger and Aunt Elinor take us all down a thrilling road, experiencing their quest to save Resa, squelch Capricorn and return Dustfinger to the pages of his life.
“Inkheart” hits the ground running and never lets up until the ending. Full of eye-popping special effects, great acting, and vivid images of the fairytales we all have been read and remember, come to life. It delivers wonder, peril and adventure, all rolled into a dark and sometimes glorious ball of fantasy.
Many reviewers just don’t know where to place “Inkheart.” They try to compare it to everything from Hogwarts to Middle Earth. But “Inkheart” cannot be pigeonholed and is a story all its own. It manages to get us to believe in it’s own universe; not too magical and not too real. Set somewhere in between now and another reality, it keeps it all together—and somewhat familiar—with references to Oz, Arabian Nights, and Huck Finn.
Being PG is appropriate, as it has no foul language or sex, but I would advise parents to not take any child under eight because of scary images, children and adults in peril, and very real visuals such as men fighting and hitting one another, men with knives (although surprising no blood) and wielding guns, men flying from buildings and cars in a cyclone, and monsters, such as flying monkeys and a dark, creepy, fire-breathing menace called The Shadow.
All in all, “Inkheart” is a story of love, perseverance, friendship and devotion. It allows the characters to grow and learn from their mistakes. It holds the moral that it is better to give than to receive, that selfishness is not a good thing, that friendship is a thing to honor and treasure, that sacrifice for those you love is right, and, of course, that one can achieve anything if they believe in it and stay the course. There are all qualities not found just in the pages of a book titled Inkheart, but within the pages of The Book… The Bible.
I know some will have issues with the non-Christian aspect of this tale, as God is never mentioned, but I enjoyed this feature much more than the blatantly atheistic “The Golden Compass,” and if I were to choose which one for my kids to watch, rent or buy, it would most definitely be “Inkheart.”
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.