RETROREVIEWS #21: INKHEART (2008)

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inkheart

MAY 28, 2013 SCREENING: INKHEART (2008)

 

Ah ha! Now here’s a film based on a “beloved children’s novel” that I had actually heard of prior to watching the movie. I first learned about the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke when I was taking a class on children’s literature in the mid 2000s. The books had recently been published, and quickly become very popular best sellers that won numerous awards. The premise of Inkheart? A fantasy story where certain people, called “Silvertongues”, are born with a magical ability where anything they read in a book will come to life. Wow, cool idea! I decided I’d have to read through Inkheart myself sometime.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, that “sometime” turned out to be in 2013 when I finally got around to watching the live action movie that was based on the first book. How was it? I think it did justice to the premise, but it was ultimately a letdown. Brendan Frasier (always a good standby for adventure movies) plays the “silvertongue” who can read books to life. His 12 year old daughter, Meggie (who looks more like 14ish or so and is inexplicably very British despite having American parents) also has this ability, but doesn’t discover it until a character who was brought to life years earlier tracks him down and demands to be read back into the book. This sets off a series of different crisis’s that ultimately drive the characters into a wild adventure where they have to face off against both people in the real world, and their own fictional creations that have been let loose into reality.

 

 

 

The feeling I got from this movie was ultimately like the 1995 film Jumanji (which used a similar premise, except things from board games come to life). It’s enjoyable, it works, but I was never quite immersed in its world and it didn’t have the emotional punch or rich themes it should have. I was left with the lingering feeling that the movie could have been done better. Apparently, this was also the reaction of both critics and audiences, since the film broke even and received “mixed reviews”. In many ways, that’s unfortunate. It was an adequate way to introduce that universe, but without the movie being strongly successful, there’s no chance of the second or third books being adapted any time soon. There are plenty of good moments in Inkheart: it was a pleasure seeing Andy Serkis as a real flesh and blood villain instead of a CGI creation for a change, the special effects were solid, the premise of the film was unique, and the way the real world and the fictional world came together was right up there with the best of fantasy movies such as The Neverending Story. Overall, however, the film was merely passable.

 

 

 

Hopefully the world of Inkheart is revisited in film at some point. In the meantime, at least it provides motivation to finally check out the original novels once and for all. I like the idea, and if Meggie is supposed to British when mom and dad are from the good ol’ USA, I expect the book will at least explain why.

 

 

 

 

** ½ out of ****

 

 

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