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Fred Loses His Spot Repeatedly While Reading Inkheart

Published January 23, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of New Line Cinema
Inkheart Inkheart
Inkheart is Last Action Hero for books. By proxy, it's also kind of The Purple Rose of Cairo for books, but it's not as good as either.

Review: Inkheart

It amuses me that this is kind of a backdoor advertisement for reading. Like some author thought, "Oh yeah? You all like your pretty little movies? Well, I'll give you a movie that'll bring you back to my world! Mwuhahahahahahahaha!" Only the author conceived it as a book and probably didn't know she'd sell the movie rights, so that can only be my postmodern interpretation of it.

Despite its promise, Inkheart loses the viewer right away. It starts in media res (that's a literary term) when it really doesn't have to, and hurts its own story that way. Except for a prologue that doesn't explain much, this adventure has already been going on for 12 years when the movie starts.

The problem is, it's such a high concept, you really need to explain it early on. The whole first act is no fun because they're trying to tease what's going on. If you don't know the premise, it's just confusing. If you already know the premise, it's boring. You've figured it out long before the characters do.

A high concept should be right up front, not some "big reveal," because if that's the hook you're hinging the story on, you should let the audience have fun with it. This isn't a mystery where we're trying to figure out the unexplained phenomenon. It's about bringing characters out of books, so don't dilly dally. Get right to it.

Mortimer (Brendan Fraser) has the power to bring characters out of books, but whenever he does, someone goes into the book. The bad guys have come out of "Inkheart" and his wife has gone back in their place. Now, why didn't he just keep reading until she came back out again? They kind of hope that doesn't occur to you.

But every character is counterproductive. If Mortimer is looking for these out of print editions of "Inkheart," and Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) shows up, wouldn't he just want to try the switcheroo right there? But then his wife has been out all along, but Dustfinger leads the gang on this convoluted mission instead. So you had the one thing that would motivate Mortimer and just thought running around would be a better idea?

It feels like there are scenes missing. It makes no sense why they go from one area to the next, or don't do what seems to be an easy solution.

It's not that magical. It's full of kind of cruddy gimmicks, makeup, stunts and visual effects. They're just running, jumping, slipping and it doesn't even look like they're in the same place as the setting.

Also, "Inkheart" is just boring. You want to see all the actual literary icons coming out, not the fake ones.

The actors play it with the utter conviction of reality. They sell the heck out of this concept. There are even parallels between Dustfinger and Mohinder's quest for their families. It's only superficial though, not like an actual subtext. <P> It would really amuse me if it ended with the family deciding, after all this trouble, let's never read again. Instead it just ends with yet another completely counterintuitive character action, so there you go.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of New Line Cinema

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