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Movie Review:
Inkheart

Inkheart -- Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Rated PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Run Time: 106 minutes
Quick Take: Younger kids could be freaked by the idea of characters-come-to-life, best for those who've handled Harry Potter.

Classy Cast, Clever Concept Help Far-From-Perfect 'Inkheart '

Some movies start out with a bang, others with a whimper.

Inkheart starts out with a "poof," as characters from a book materialize in the real world.

Talk about a mixed blessing. The idea of conjuring the crowd from The Wizard of Oz seems like a dandy idea, until you're running for your life from a flying monkey.

In the case of Inkheart, the movie based on Cornelia Funke's book of the same name, characters are accidentally "read out" by Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser), a guy who discovers the hard way that his dramatic recitations of literary works are so good, they get the players to jump off the page and into the room. This finding comes via the book-within-the-movie, Inkheart. One night, Mo reads the dark tome to his daughter, and, "poof," out comes a fire juggler, a thug and a villain named Capricorn. Worse, it imprisons Mo's wife (the rules: one comes out, one goes in) who ends up trapped in the book. Rescuing her is tricky. Capricorn intends to stick around --"I love this world. I intend to write my name on every page of it" -- and scoops up every copy of Inkheart to keep Mo from reading Resa out, and Capricorn back in.

Trailers for Inkheart offered high hopes for something fancifully Jumanji-an, or dare I say it, Harry Potter-esque. The idea of "reading out" is such a brilliant concept. It's magic. But after a promising start, Inkheart became all clang and noise, the book within the movie left a bit undefined. You need a scorecard to keep up with all the indistinguishable goons-in-black, except for Capricorn, who, with his shaved head and spiffy suit, comes off as bad-guy prototype 1.0. Oh, and the unrealized possibilities. So many wizards in the library, and the most notable literary figure Inkheart could produce is Toto?

But that's the fuddy-duddy grownup perspective. The target audience? They'll probably be having too much fun clutching the armrests and watching through their fingers. For them, clangy and noisy just might be bonuses. If you're a kid, the very idea of fictional characters of flesh and blood is a pretty thrilling development. On one hand, it's the stuff they've always dreamed about. (Hellooo, Rapunzel!) On the other, it could also mean the boogiemen they have mom and dad check the closet for every night. (Yikes! Minotaur!). And how can you not love Helen Mirren's wacky Aunt Elinor?

Despite its flaws, Inkheart shimmers with a fittingly blurred line between fantasy and reality, a place where you can't be sure of time or place since castles and handmaids intersect with cell phones and automobiles. That part feels perfectly otherworldly, even if the ending feels eerily of this one (call me crazy, but it sure looked an awful lot like the first Mummy movie). There's also the feeling of a movie that's not really over. That's probably because Inkheart, Funke's book, has two sequels. And in Hollywood, best sellers never really end. They just wait for their pages to come to life -- in the movies.

Kids Will Like:
The movie is a hodgepodge of random literary characters and references (unicorns, flying monkeys, plus a random boy from 1001 Arabian Nights) and kids will get a kick out of the ones they recognize. The idea that you could bring to life the good stuff -- like Toto from The Wizard of Oz -- is instantly appealing. For all of its darkness, Inkheart does make attempts at humor. It is Brendan Fraser, after all, and the man who would be king of the action heroes offers at least a little of his genial lightheartedness, though more would have been welcome. Rumor is, Cornelia Funke wrote the part of Mo with Fraser in mind. Tween girls will particularly enjoy Farid, (the aforementioned random character from 1001 Arabian Nights), who seems to have been written in for their benefit. That the daughter steps up to be the hero will be immensely appealing.

Parents Will Like:
It might come as a surprise, but the movie does a great job heralding the wondrousness of books, and how a volume can take you places without leaving a room -- a nice reminder or the whole family. It's a stitch to watch Helen Mirren ham it up as eccentric Aunt Elinor, a biddy who's all attitude, and who dresses as if she's channeling Gloria Swanson circa Sunset Boulevard. Overall, Inkheart has a pretty esteemed group of British actors -- Andy Serkis, Paul Bettany, Ms. Mirren among them. If you're a stickler for details, don't look too closely at the ending, or you might notice the story breaking its own rules for a tidy conclusion.

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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