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Inkheart

Based on the best-selling book, Inkheart spins a fantasy adventure about a Silvertongue father Mo and his young daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett). The two set off to find a rare book that may lead them to Meggie's missing mother. But there's a price to pay for reading things out of a book and into the real world: When a character is brought to life from a book, a real person disappears into its pages. That's where Mo thinks his wife Resa (Sienna Guillory) has gone and he needs the book Inkheart to get her back. Complicating matters are the characters Mo has brought into his world -- Capricorn (Andy Serkis, the Gollum actor appearing without CGI), the evil villain of Inkheart , and Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a fire-dancer who wants nothing more than to return to his life in the book where his wife (played by Bettany's real life wife Jennifer Connelly) awaits him. Along for the adventure are Meggie's Aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) and the author of the Inkheart book Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent).

Dame Helen Mirren in Inkheart (Warner Brothers)

The film Inkheart arrives on the heels of another adaptation of a children's book, The Tale of Despereaux . But Inkheart works far better on the screen than Despereaux , although I'm told by fans of the books that neither film is very faithful to its source. But Inkheart has an engaging premise in its notion of a Silvertongue and a refreshing love of books. It's nice to see characters talk with such affection and passion about literature and the written word. It reminded me of the book lovers in 84 Charing Cross Road . But the film's charms will work best on younger audiences. This is not the kind of fantasy film like Lord of the Rings that could fully engage young and old. The fantasy world that Inkheart's & director Iain Softley creates doesn't have the attention to detail that Peter Jackson displayed in bringing J. R. R. Tolkien's books to the screen so we don't get pulled in as completely into Inkheart as we did into Middle Earth.But Softley teases us with an opening scene in which Mo is reading Little Red Riding Hood and suddenly the most vividly red riding hood floats down from a silky black sky. That kind of bold, magical imagery promises far more than the film ever delivers again.

Brendan Fraser, Jim Broadbent and Paul Bettany in Inkheart (Warner Brothers)

The screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire goes more for cute gags and smart-alecky one-liners rather than true cleverness or a well-developed script. This feels more like the outline of something that still needs to be fleshed out. And I can't figure out if the broad comedy he asks of Helen Mirren's Aunt Elinor is fun or embarrassing after all she is a Dame of the British Empire and this silly part is along the lines of the role she played in National Treasure 2 , so there is that wince factor. Fraser is likable as the loving dad and Broadbent gives his best as the stereotypical eccentric writer. The best performance in the film belongs to Bettany who actually finds some pathos to the predicament of a character thrown into the real world and given knowledge of the fate that awaits him if he returns to his book.

Paul Bettany in Inkheart (Warner Brothers)

Inkheart (rated PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language) is the first of a trilogy of books Funke has written. It's a diverting film, easy to sit through but not memorable. Depending on its success at the box office, we may see more of the Silvertongued father and daughter in the future.

Companion viewing: The Never Ending Story, Read or Die (R.O.D.), The Princess Bride, 84 Charing Cross Road, The Purple Rose of Cairo

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