Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Iain Softley

Inkheart cover 
What if every time you read aloud the story literally came to life? With the power to read yourself out of any situation it should be possible to get away with almost anything. But in Inkheart that power comes with a high price: whenever a character is read out of a book and into reality, someone else from the real world must disappear back into it to restore the balance.

Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) is a bookbinder by trade. He lives an itinerant life with his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett). Theirs is a life surrounded by dusty old tomes, the older the better. But Meggie's mother is nowhere to be seen, and Mo always seems to be searching for a particular book that eludes him.

A man going by the name of Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) appears, and as Meggie tries to overhear the conversation between him and her father she soon decides that she instinctively distrusts the stranger. Soon after he appears they're on the move again, trying to avoid capture by the villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis).

We know Capricorn is truly evil, because he has a habit of burning books. This is very much the kind of movie that people who venerate the printed word will warm to. The heroes are all book lovers, especially when it comes to illustrated editions with some sort of historical value, the kind of books which look great on the shelves of stately homes. If there's a moral to this story, it's that books are precious and should be well-treated.

Capricorn is a villain who was accidentally read out of a book called Inkheart, along with some of his henchmen. Having found himself a Silvertongue, which is someone with the ability to read fictional characters to life, he's been busy building a castle and gaining more power. But the Silvertongue he's holding captive isn't talented enough to read people properly to life, so they emerge flawed and covered with writing. Capricorn needs Mo to read for him because he wants to bring a greater evil into this world than himself: he wants the monster from Inkheart. Understandably Mo doesn't want to help Capricorn, and he's afraid that once he starts reading he has no control over what happens to the people around him.

Serkis isn't quite mad or bad enough to make a convincingly scary bad guy. The suspense comes down another notch when it becomes obvious early on just how easily the situation could be fixed. Inkheart is an attractive fantasy, peppered with beautiful and unusual creatures of myth, and it makes good use of the colour red to enhance its visual appeal. But for all its looks it's still a superficial film. The characters who emerge from the fictional Inkheart seem to have stepped out from the kind of overblown, hackneyed epic fantasy that tends to languish unread at the library and unsaleable at the car boot. As a result the characters are two-dimensional, lacklustre stereotypes, especially the villains.

Inkheart will appeal most to a younger audience. It does differ from the book in some details. Most of all it's the kind of movie that looks pretty and tries to push most of the emotional buttons you would expect of a family adventure with the odd whirlwind or unicorn thrown in. If you don't have the stomach for soppy melodrama, or you happen to be older than 12, then Inkheart will leave you cold.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Arthur and the Invisibles cover    

Arthur and the Invisibles by Luc Besson
A boy shrinks to the size of an insect and goes on an adventure in order to rescue his home.

Inkheart cover    

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Meggie and Mo Folchart are avid readers, but Mo can literally bring characters to life just by reading aloud. And those characters aren't always happy about it.

Stardust cover    

Stardust by Matthew Vaughn
Life is hard for a star: there's no privacy, you get hounded wherever you go, your heart cut out and eaten...

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Iain Softley