reviewed by Marc Glassman
Inkheart. Iain Softley, director. David Lindsay-Abaire, script from the novel by Cornelia Funke. Starring: Brendan Fraser (Mortimer “Mo” Folchart), Eliza Hope Bennett (Meggie Folchart), Paul Bettany (Dustfinger), Andy Serkis (Capricorn), Helen Mirren (Elinor), Jim Broadbent (Fenoglio), Sienna Guillory (Resa Folchart), Rafi Gavron (Farid)
Have you ever heard the expression “Oh, she’s lost in a book?” That’s literally the case in Inkheart, the new fantasy blockbuster epic, which joins Harry Potter’s story-telling dynamics with post-modernist theory. Yep, the text comes alive in this fractured fairy tale, which will undoubtedly please cultural theorists as much as teen-aged girls.
The lady lost in a story is Resa, the mother of sweet, imaginative 12-year-old Meggie and the wife of the handsome, slightly befuddled Mortimer “Mo” Folchart. Seems Mo was reading to Meggie nine years earlier from a mystical text entitled Inkheart, when a mischievous juggler named Dustfinger, a terrifying villain named Capricorn and a henchman with a penchant for knives named Basta emerged from the book—and Resa disappeared. So did the three literary figures and the precious volume from whence they came.
Since then, Mo has been searching in antiquarian bookshops throughout Europe for an edition of Inkheart. As the film begins, Mo and Meggie finally discover a copy of the rare book in a lovely store deep in the market place of a picturesque village nestled in the Italian Alps. Unfortunately, Dustfinger, Capricorn and Basta aren’t far behind. Meggie is kidnapped before “Mo” can figure out how to free Resa from the book — and the volume disappears again. Using wily tactics and with the help of real and fictional allies, “Mo” fights back, determined to get back the book and the women in his life.
Inkheart is a romantic fable, immersed in the belief that literature — and storytelling — matter. The film, like Cornelia Funke’s internationally bestselling book, is pitched to the idealistic sensibilities of teen-aged girls, but anyone who loves a bold tale and, well, a beautiful book may find themselves seduced by the charms of Inkheart.
Is it a great film? Or a great book? No, but neither is the Harry Potter series of books and films. Inkheart rests in a lively corner, nourished by the present wave of good feeling and interest in the fantastic. It is a well-rendered genre piece, thoroughly engaging to those who enjoy its particular sensibility. Even a teen-aged boy may love Inkheart.
As a slightly grumpy reader and lover of the fantastic in literature and film, it’s my sad duty to point out that the film is overly reliant on action and special F/X. More intriguing plot twists and Helen Mirren (whose wonderfully dotty character of Elinor occupies too little screentime) might have made Inkheart a better film. But adolescents may find the film to be worthwhile. And who can blame them?