1HTML> "Inkheart" ~~ a Cinema Signals Movie Review by Jules Brenner
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by Cornelia Funke
(Discounted series from Amazon)
. "Inkheart"

With the standards set so high for movie adaptations from fantasy novels, this one suffers from a severe case of inadequacy and a story logic (as transcribed by screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Iain Softley) that is so tortured, it doesn't do the premise any good. You have to assume it worked better in the source material, Cornelia Funke's acclaimed 2004 novel that remained on bestseller lists for 70 weeks.

Daddy Mo "Silvertongue" Folchart (Brendan Fraser) is very distinctive from other fathers who enjoy reading to their children -- when he reads, characters jump out of the book, alive. Yes, they appear in visible and sentient splendor with all the villainy or virtue the writer put into them. It's not known at first if three-year old daughter Meggie (Mirabel O'Keefe) has inherited the gene, but it will be learned by family and foe alike, and she, herself, that she does.

From that night when he read from "Inkheart" and, unknown to him and little Meggie, brought characters out of it, his wife Resa (Sienna Guillory) disappeared.

By the time Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) is twelve, Mo has taken her on many a bookshop tour in search of that book. When he, at last, finds a copy that may (or may not) be the only one still in existence, two characters from the book who had formerly been released from it appear. Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), with his trusty weasel sidekick, appears before Meggie in an appeal to get her father to return him to the book from whence he came so that he may enjoy a reunion with his beloved wife Roxanne (Jennifer Connolly). (You can't do better for mysterious beauty than Connolly).

But Mo only has the power to bring characters alive OUT of a book. He can't send them back. And, there's another wrinkle to the rules of this game: a real person goes into the world of the book to replace the one who came out, explaining how and why Resa disappeared and why finding a copy of the book into which she was taken has been such a years-long quest.

To escape Dustfinger, who has by now become a real pain, Mo takes Meggie to visit aunt Elinor Loredan (Helen Mirren) at her fabulous mansion, seeking help and refuge. Dustfinger, having sold out to the villainous Capricorn (Andy Serkis) by releasing him from the book in hopes of being sent back, finds Mo and Meggie and comes to capture them for Capricorn. Under this evil character's command, a zoo of creatures take shape as he outlines his wish for Mo to bring forth out of the book the dreaded Shadow, a force no man can resist but which Capricorn assumes he can control.

When Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the author of "Inkheart" is found, Mo tasks him with a rewrite, which makes possible that which wasn't, and a storyline that smacks of literary convenience and a sense of being cheated. The production doesn't fill us with a sufficient sense of awe for the spectacular visual concepts that we've come to expect in big-scale movie fantasy these days and, worse, a plot that becomes tedious in the first act.

Acting is okay. Serkis seems like an actor whose been given too big a part--a bit beyond his range. Mirren does a nice enough turn in a role that starts off strongly but is poorly developed in the script. Fraser and Bennett are fine, but no standouts anywhere.

While part of the belabored effect may be accounted for by a limited budget in which the requisite but costly CGI effects are saved for the final showdown, the abiding inadequacy really appears to be a lack of film magic, both in the visual elements of production and in the strained logic of the narrative. They would have done better with the creative team from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor."

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Eliza Hope Bennett and Brendan Fraser
Looking for mom... in a book.

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