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    Thu, 22 Jan 2009 13:00:48

    Movie Reviews: Inkheart

    An annoying lack of logic makes Inkheart unsatisfying for anyone old enough to possess cognitive functions, because the movie basically doesn't make a lick of sense. And anyone young enough to be untroubled by this shortcoming probably shouldn't be exposed to the movie's violent content. In other words, this is one of those frustrating fantasy flicks that's not smart enough to please teens or adults, but not kid-friendly enough to be appropriate for toddlers.

    In Inkheart, Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser, strictly ho-hum) can bring characters and objects into our world from any book that he reads aloud—but at the price of making someone here shift into that book. He discovers this after unintentionally sending his wife into a fantasy-adventure titled Inkheart that he is reading to his young daughter, simultaneously bringing some of that book's characters to this world. (His switcheroo talent is not a one-for-one deal, for some unexplained reason.) The new arrivals take Mo's copy of the book and flee, apparently fully aware of how they got here and somehow acquainted with exactly how the rules of transference work. File under, "Huh?"

    The story resumes when daughter Meggie (an adequate but unexceptional Eliza Hope Bennett) is 12. Dad has been searching for another copy of Inkheart during those off-screen years in hopes of getting his wife back from its pages. His quest has been complicated by the hammily evil Capricorn (Andy Serkis), one of the characters Mo brought into this world, who has been snatching up every copy in existence so he can't be sent home. Every copy? File under, "It seems unlikely."

    One of the other brought-over characters has different ideas. Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) wants to get back between the covers, as it were, with his Inkheart wife. Bettany easily is the best thing about the movie, appearing believably depressed, duplicitous, and daring as the scene demands.

    Capricorn kidnaps Meggie and demands that Mo do his bidding by bringing over reinforcements to help him conquer our world. Heroics eventually ensue. Here are some of the many story problems: Would it really take more than a decade for it to dawn on Mo that Inkheart's author might have a copy of his own book? Or that a "silver tongue" like Mo simply could write words of his own to read aloud, in order to supply himself with absolutely anything he might want or need? And why on earth wouldn't Mo bother telling Meggie that she might have inherited his "talent," instead of risking the possibility that she might cause the same sort of unintentional disaster that robbed her of her own mother?

    Helen Mirren appears as Meggie's stuffy Great Aunt Elinore, the kind of supposed-to-be-amusing old bird who fussily talks to herself. Jim Broadbent plays the book's author with campy corn relish. Both are fine actors who are wasted here, although neither rises above the material.

    The movie is adapted from the first book in a bestselling trilogy. If the producers go back to the Inkheart well for a sequel, here's hoping the writing will be better next time around.

    —James Dawson

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