Big-hearted, boisterous fun, Inkheart's sfx could give Harry Potter a run for its money and its ingrained message is ever-lasting.
If The Princess Bride and The NeverEnding Story were to mingle, the result would probably be Inkheart. As with its predecessors, a dusty old book provides the springboard for the action, in this case a swashbuckling tale of castles and mythical creatures in a not-so-faraway land. Adapted from the best-selling book by Cornelia Funke, the action centres around Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser), a bookbinder and part-time "silvertongue" (when he reads a story aloud, its characters come to life) who unleashed a rabble of thieving, double-crossing ne'er-do-wells on the world when he read Inkheart to his young daughter. Unfortunately, the swap was two-sided and his wife has since been trapped, mute, among its pages. Mo and Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) have spent the intervening years travelling Europe in search of the elusive book in order to "read" his wife back to the world. Meanwhile, the rabble have settled into a life of comfort in the Italian Alps, where a stammering silvertongue has been forced to entertain them with carefully chosen texts. The result is a castle inhabited by a ticking crocodile, a minotaur, flying monkeys and unicorns. The two groups are thrown back together and the scene is set for other-wordly adventure and heroics. Fraser is familiarly bumbling, but energetic turns by Helen Mirren as an eccentric aunt, Jim Broadbent as the book's woolly author and Paul Bettany as a flawed but loveable flame-thrower make for a pacey ride pepped up by a witty script. The special effects could give Harry Potter a run for its money. This is big-hearted, boisterous fun. And the underlying message about the power of the written word is a good one.