In theaters today is Brendan Fraser’s latest, another foray into the family action adventure movie, which is quickly becoming his staple market. Inkheart follows the journey of Mo (Fraser), a book binder with the ability to read characters out of a book, as he and his daughter Meggie, battle against a casat of villains accidentally withdrawn from the novel Inkheart. Along for the ride are Meggie’s great-aunt Elinor (Mirren), the books author Fenoglio (Broadbent), literary firebreather Dustfinger (Bettany), and Farid, one of the Forty Thieves. The ragtag assemblage must discover a way to banish the evil Capricorn and rescue Mo’s long lost (to Inkheart world) wife from his clutches.
The film is ripe with literary references, as one would expect from a film where the protagonists can read characters out of book. One difference from it’s literary father comes in which characters are withdrawn the written page – the film version dabbles with The Wizard of Oz notable, as well as such classics as A Christmas Carol and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. For the most part these characters are decorative, though one clever pup in particular has a larger role in the story. Seeing a modern, menacing vision of flying monkeys was just as awesome as it sounds. Visually, the film is arresting with exciting shots, excellent and sparsely used CGI, and a wealth of practical effects, including debris, wind, and a cute ferret. The character design is excellent as well; I particularly liked the writing across the faces of misread characters, who have only partially emerged from their literary worlds.
The cast assembled for Inkheart is exceptional and, as one would expect, completely wonderful. The credits read something like an All-Star roster, with Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, Brendan Fraser, and Paul Bettany. Speaking of such, Bettany puts in a fantastic turn as Dustfinger, an Inkheart fire juggler struggling to return home to his wife, who he’s been away from for 10 years. The character is fairly complex in his struggles to overcome the way he was written, at times seemingly brave though mostly appearing to be cowardly and self-serving. Helen Mirren is also engaging, though Andy Serkis steals every scene he’s in. Fraser plays the lovable father well and the part was written expressly for him.
As a fairly ardent fan of literature, I found the film to be a magical and captivating experience for the whole family, though I don’t exactly have a family of my own, you know with kids and what not. But if I did, I’m sure they would have enjoyed the film. The plot is active enough to keep adults entertained, yet never so overpowering that a child would give up on it. Plus, much of the magic is what’s happening on screen, so if someone were to get lost, they could just marvel at the fire juggling or the unicorn. Rich with engaging characters, brilliant performances, and pleasing visuals, Inkheart is definitely a film that will keep kids glued to their seats and quiet while adults find plenty to marvel at as well. Give this one a shot if you’re looking for a good family time.