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Love of Literature Extolled in Inkheart

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jun 26, 2009
Love of Literature Extolled in <i>Inkheart</i>

DVD Release Date:  June 23, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  January 23, 2009
Rating:  PG (for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language)
Genre:  Fantasy/Adventure/Family
Run Time:  106 min.
Director:  Iain Softley
Actors:  Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Matt King, Andy Serkis, Jim Broadbent, Jennifer Connelly, Sienna Guillory, Eliza Bennett

In an age where Wii, reality T.V. and social networking definitely reigns supreme, it’s particularly refreshing to see literature lovingly getting its due on the big screen.

Now make no mistake about it, there are a few gaping plot holes that will require a full suspension of disbelief in the adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s popular novel, Inkheart. But that’s nothing a fantastic cast, a captivating story and a little movie magic can’t fix—or at least remedy.

With a pervasive theme about the enduring power of stories, Inkheart is a fanciful tale of a father and daughter who regularly frequent the world’s used bookstore circuit (apparently ordering from simply won’t do) in search of a particular edition of a medieval fantasy volume called Inkheart.

Hoping to remedy a horrifying mistake from his past, Mo Folchart (a stoic but mostly effective Brendan Fraser) doesn’t explain to his adventure-seeking daughter Meggie (a standout Eliza Bennett) exactly why they travel so much. But making things even more complicated, it also turns out that Mo was born with a rather unusual gift that Meggie will discover later on. Apparently much like Adam Sandler in Bedtime Stories, Mo has the uncanny ability to make prose come to life just by reading it aloud. In the flick, that officially makes him a “Silvertongue.”

And sometimes, especially when it involves the fate of his beloved wife Reva (Sienna Guillory), the gift isn’t quite as cool as it seems. Back when Mo first read Inkheart to Meggie a decade before, his wife was eventually trapped in the actual pages of the story. So we’re told the only way to free her from eternal literary captivity is to locate the missing book and “read” her back to Earth.

Yeah, the premise is a bit crazy, but that’s what the fantasy genre is all about, right?

While Inkheart gets off to a strong start, (a good hook always helps), the story gets increasingly more colorful as it goes along. Not only is the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality entertaining and eye-popping like a family-friendly Moulin Rouge with musical pop culture references swapped out for decidedly bookish ones, but the topsy-turvy journey showcases an unbreakable bond between the protective father and his feisty daughter that can’t help but resonate emotionally.

A slew of compelling side characters certainly doesn’t hurt matters either. Paul Bettany is a perpetual scene-stealer as Dustfinger, a hilarious fictional character with a Dorothy complex. Basically for him, “there’s no place like home,” and he’ll stop at nothing to get back to Inkheart. Putting to an end to any potential progress that Dustfinger makes along the way, however, is Capricorn (Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings fame as Gollum) who hopes to exploit Mo and Meggie for his evil, self-indulgent gain. Also sporting small but memorable roles are veteran Brit actors Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, who ham it up as key characters in this vibrant, fictional menagerie.

Without revealing too much more of the plot (part of the fun is trying to figure out what is going to happen next, after all), Inkheart hits all the right notes with thrilling action scenes, emotional resonance, and yes, enough humor to keep the mood relatively light among all the fictional—and non-fictional—turmoil. Although the story may be a little scary and confusing for the younger set (see Cautions below), there’s a good chance that older kids (and their parents) won’t be bored.

Briskly paced with enough verve, color and action to keep even your most A-D-D-prone movie fan engaged, Inkheart brings a much-loved novel to life without losing the glorious detail and character development in the process—an essential for great literature and an oft-neglected feature of many novels-turned-movies.

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  The villains and Meggie’s great aunt Elinor say a couple of bad words.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  There are some seriously intense moments of hand-to-hand combat, the absence of a mother, fantasy-related violence and scenes with scary monsters that parents of children under nine should be aware of.  While nothing is overly gratuitous, a younger audience could easily be frightened by some of the scenarios here.


Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.