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Inkheart DVD Review

Inkheart movie poster Inkheart

Theatrical Release: January 23, 2009 / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Iain Softley / Writers: Cornelia Funke (book), David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)

Cast: Brendan Fraser (Mortimer Folchart), Paul Bettany (Dustfinger), Helen Mirren (Elinor), Jim Broadbent (Fenoglio), Andy Serkis (Capricorn), Eliza Hope Bennett (Meggie Folchart), Rafi Gavron (Farid), Sienna Guillory (Resa), Lesley Sharp (Mortola), Jamie Foreman (Basta), Matt King (Cockerell), Steve Speirs (Flatnose), Stephen Graham (Fulvio), John Thomson (Darius), Jennifer Connelly (Roxanne), Roger Allam (Narrator)

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In Inkheart, Brendan Fraser's character Mortimer Folchart is a "Silvertongue", which means that by reading aloud from any book, he can conjure the personalities and phenomena described. It also means he can unintentionally cause a person to leave our world behind and enter a literary one.
Mo discovered his special power nine years ago when a bedtime story to his young daughter led his wife (Sienna Guillory) to vanish, presumably entering the universe of a little-known fantasy tale.

Fast-forward to the present day, where book restorer Mo and his now 12-year-old girl Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) are reminded of this gift that's more curse than blessing. An assortment of fictional creations living in the human world summons Mo, his daughter, and her sharp-tongued bibliophile great-aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren). The family's captors -- numerous crude henchmen and their unscrupulous ringleader Capricorn (Lord of the Rings' Andy Serkis) -- all come from Inkheart, the same novel that apparently swallowed Mo's wife/Meggie's mother.

Capricorn and his castle-reigning, wealth-seeking baddies aren't the only ones with demands for Mo. Fire-juggler Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), another Inkheart native, longs to be read back into his story and thus reunited with his family (Bettany's real wife Jennifer Connelly making a cameo).

In the course of the adventures, Mo and Meggie track down Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the author who may be their only hope of locating an all-important copy of the rare book whose characters and readers have become intertwined. Also in the mix: a feisty weasel and Sabu-esque Arabian adventurer Farid (Rafi Gavron).

Bookbinder Mortimer Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) are in this snowy town to check out an old bookshop. No longer reduced to motion capture, Andy Serkis (Gollum, Sméagol, King Kong) appreciates the way his bald, villainous head really pops against this dark backdrop.

Inkheart the film fittingly takes its ideas from a young adult fantasy novel, one written in 2003 by German author Cornelia Funke. While its design resembles two other major studio family films of the past six months (Adam Sandler's Bedtime Stories and Eddie Murphy's Imagine That), there is no danger of confusing this adaptation with those comedic works. Inkheart is very much invested in print, a medium that requires imagination for worlds to leap off the page.

Appropriately enough, the filming is quite full of imagination, from which plentiful excitement is generated. Allusions and nods to famous, enduring fiction strengthen the proceedings and the central concept. The universe takes some warming to, since the opposition is both out there and in your face so early on. Ultimately, though, it's easy to invest in it, even if wandering minds will be able to conceive a multitude of ways to exploit the Silvertongue powers and avoid the threats, hostage situations, and showdowns that fuel the suspense and action.

Director Iain Softley (Hackers, K-PAX) brings a nice soft touch to the material. He avoids allowing this story to get overblown, a failing to which many modern fantasies succumb. There are a minimum of special effects, none used purely for show. There are few signs of the present-day, suggesting that even the real world is some timeless, vaguely European place. Front and center is solid storytelling based on an admiration of solid storytelling.

Although Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) has the ability to start fire with his bare hands, he'd much rather return home to his book. Capricorn's text-tattooed, somewhat deformed henchmen like Flatnose (Steve Speirs) and Cockerell (Matt King) are off-putting to be sure.

The acting here is quite a bit better than what we find in most contemporary family fare. Uncharacteristically, the low-key Fraser
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doesn't stand out as the star, but the others around him pick up the slack. The turns from Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, and Jim Broadbent are rather inspired, injecting motivation, spunk, and humor as the film requires. Andy Serkis makes for a potent villain and Nanny McPhee's Eliza Bennett does well as the youngest lead.

Ms. Funke followed her bestselling book with the sequels Inkspell (2005) and Inkdeath (2007) and although New Line Cinema commissioned a scripting of the former back in 2006, it is unlikely to see the light of day. That's because Inkheart did not attract an audience in theaters. Poor marketing and timing can be cited, but in fairly wide release last winter, the film grossed just $17 million, or barely a quarter of its modest $60 M production budget. Foreign grosses were much more respectable, especially the $10 M earned in Funke's homeland, where the film was released before Christmas. But it's practically inconceivable for a studio to build a franchise out of something so avoided.

Five months after opening in theaters, Inkheart comes to DVD and a Blu-ray/DVD combo next week from Warner Home Video.

Buy Inkheart on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen,
1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: June 23, 2009
Double-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-10)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.96 (Reduced from $28.98)
Black Keepcase in Embossed,
Glittery Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Blu-ray/DVD Combo
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VIDEO and AUDIO

The double-sided DVD gives you the choice to watch Inkheart in its intended 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio or diced up to fill 4:3 screens. The former presentation is quite satisfying, the clean sharp visuals allowing one to easily admire the stellar production design and scenic Italian filming locations. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack impresses even more than the picture, its aggressive atmosphere serving to constantly enhance the film's drama.

It's a new age for DVD when the only bonus accompanying a best-selling fantasy adaptation is 3 minutes of this girl (Eliza Hope Bennett) simply reading to us. Inkheart's ordinary DVD main menu makes me think of one of my favorite songs. Sing everybody... Take a look, it's in a book, with Brendan Fraser (Brendan Fraser)!

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Inkheart's standard DVD gets just one bonus feature in the short "Eliza Reads to Us" (3:40). After a brief introduction from author Cornelia Funke,
actress Eliza Bennett reads a closing passage of the book not used in the film. It's spiced up by concept art and stock video.

By comparison, the movie's Blu-ray release includes deleted scenes, "A Story from the Cast and Crew", "From Imagination to the Page: How Writers Write", BD-Live bonuses, a digital copy, and an unadvertised copy of the DVD.

Auto-play trailers promote Blu-ray, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective, and the animated direct-to-video Green Lantern.

Inkheart's plastic-saving environmentally-friendly keepcase slides into a cardboard slipcover that's jazzed up with embossing and glitter effects. The only insert is a sheet holding instructions and a code for downloading a digital copy, currently priced at $1.99 and expiring five months from now.

The disc's humdrum static menus feature character imagery, fantastic settings, and on the main screen, a looped piece of score.

Bereted, salmon-scarved author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) is amazed to see one of his characters in the flesh. The cast of "Inkheart" feels the effects of having conjured one massive twister from the pages of L. Frank Baum. The power of book is a curious thing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While no modern classic, Inkheart proves to be an enjoyable fantasy that gets good mileage out of its imaginative ideas on book reader superpowers. Since so few people caught the film in theaters, DVD would be the perfect place for it to find an audience. That makes Warner's decision to keep nearly all bonus features exclusive to Blu-ray particularly unfortunate, for it's sure to discourage potential buyers. Nevertheless, the movie deserves a look, especially from those who are fond of adventures via the written word.

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Related Reviews:
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) • Bedtime Stories • City of Ember • Stardust • Labyrinth
New to DVD: Confessions of a Shopaholic • Princess Protection Program • Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience • Morning Light
Night at the Museum • The Spiderwick Chronicles • National Treasure (2-Disc Collector's Edition) • Marley & Me
The Water Horse • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian • Return to Oz • A Wrinkle in Time



Featuring The Cast of Inkheart:
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull • Valiant
National Treasure: Book of Secrets • The Queen • Around the World in 80 Days • The Prestige • Enchanted April
Guest-Starring Brendan Fraser: Scrubs: The Complete First Season • Scrubs: The Complete Third Season

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Reviewed June 20, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 New Line Cinema and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.