by Rick Grant
Grade: C- / Rated PG / 106 min
This movie is suffering from the Brendan Fraser Effect (BFE)-that is, most any movie in which Fraser stars depends on special effects to cover up his lackluster acting. Given the BFE of this fantasy scenario, the premise demands that the viewers suspend their disbelief and pretend Fraser can act.
The protagonists of this preposterous scenario are Fraser’s character Mortimer Folchart and his teenage daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett). They have the gift of being Silvertongues-that is, as they read a book aloud, the scenario comes to life. They can read out characters into the real world, and read in characters back into the book.
Mortimer discovered his gift ten years ago when he read a rare book called Inkheart. Inadvertently, he read Capricorn (Andy Serkis) into real life, and his wife held captive in the story of Capricorn, now flesh and blood. The story includes an evil power called The Shadow who will help Capricorn dominate the world. Mortimer has been searching for a copy of Inkheart for years so he can rescue his wife and send Capricorn back into the book.
However, Mortimer doesn’t know that Meggie is also a Silvertongue which will be useful later in the story So, Mortimer travels to Italy, scrounging dusty old book stores to find a copy of Inkheart. The only flaw in Mortimer’s plan is, he has to find a character to take his wife’s place. That character happens along in the guise of Dustfinger, (Paul Bettany) a character trapped in the real world who desires to return to his wife in the book. Dustfinger’s trusty ferret is the comic relief.
Iaim Softly’s direction is scattershot and lacks continuity. His pacing vacillates between quick segues and slow action. Thus the movie waxes sluggish and boring. Viewers get restless and go out for more popcorn hoping that when they return the movie will perk up.
During Mortimer’s quest to find a copy of the book, he runs into the author, (Jim Broadent ) who has the original manuscript. Helen Mirrem plays Mortimer’s wife Resa’s sister, Elinor Loredan, who lives in a mansion with a rare books collection. Here Meggie finds solace in reading and she discovers her gift. Elinor is a grumpy old hag who is very fussy about her books.
Suddenly, Capricorn’s goons invade Aunt Elinor’s mansion and cart off Mortimer, Meggie, and Elinor to their castle on a mountain where the characters of the book are now living in the real world. Here, they are held captive so Capricorn can use Mortimer’s gift to bring down The Shadow on his side.
In the Castle complex, Dustfinger finds Resa, Mortimer’s captive wife, but he neglects to tell Mortimer until it’s almost too late. Meggie, Mortimer, and Elinor plan an escape to free Resa and exchange her for Dustfinger. Ah, but things go wrong and the plan turns into a fiasco.
Despite the film’s flaws and Fraser’s failings as an actor, there are some great FX and fanciful action. Characters from various fairytales appear as the film builds momentum for the grand finale. The Shadow is a formidable dark cloud-like creature that may scare little children. Overall, it may entertain preteens and kids into this sort of fairytale fantasy.