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Inkheart (2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc released: 6/23/2009

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/29/2009

I'm not one to go gaga over actors, but I've always like Brendan Fraser. I don't know if I consider him talented, but there's something about his genial goofiness which I've always found likable. But, for some reason, he seems to work in fits and starts. Looking at his resume, he was in a bunch of stuff in the 90s and then following the success of The Mummy movies, he was in a few things here and there. But, since 2004 he hadn't been in a big, starring vehicle. Then in 2008 we got Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and suddenly he's back in the limelight and having box-office success. Early 2009 saw the release of Inkheart. Would it continue his comeback streak?

Inkheart introduces us to Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his daughter, Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett). We learn that Mo restores old books and they are traveling to a town somewhere in the mountains of Europe. Once in the town, Mo is accosted by a man named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), who begs Mo to help him, but Mo adamantly refuses. Mo then finds a book entitled Inkheart in a bookstore and gets very excited. He and Meggie take the book to his Aunt Elinor's (Helen Mirren) house. Once there, Mo decides to tell Meggie the truth. He is a "slivertongue", some who, when they read aloud, can draw characters and objects out of books. Dustfinger was drawn out of Inkheart and he's been waiting for Mo to put him back. Unfortunately, years ago, Mo also released the villainous Capricorn (Andy Serkis) from the book. Now, Capricorn wants Mo to do some special reading for him so that he can rule the world.

Inkheart is based on a novel by Cornelia Funke and it wants to follows in the footsteps of recent fantasy adaptations such as Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, but the movie simply falls flat. The film takes an interesting idea, the silvertongue's ability to bring fictional characters to life, and squanders it completely.

The movie suffers from two major problems. First of all, it's incredibly unbalanced and choppy. Despite the fact that it has a running time of 106 minutes, there are still moments in Inkheart which feel as if something is missing or has been glossed over. The film was shot in 2006 and sat on the shelf for a while and movies in this position often get re-edited, sometimes to the point where they don't make sense. This awkward presentation is saddled with a narrative which can't decide how mature it wants to be. Ostensibly, this is a family fantasy film, but the movie is somewhat violent at times and the villains have machine guns. It's as if the filmmakers were torn between making a family film and something more dark, and simply attempted to fuse the two together. This is made all the more confusing by a Nazi motif running through the movie. Capricorn's henchmen look like Nazi soldiers and the finale resembles the Hitler rallies which we've seen in stock footage. Where did this come from? Did I miss something?

The unappealing vibe in the film pushes us into the second major problem -- we want to know more about Inkheart. Despite the fact that the book sounds like a fairly standard medieval fairy tale, it certainly seems to be more appealing than this mess of a movie. With each revelation about the story in the novel, we want to know more about it and less about Mo's attempts to rescue Meggie from Capricorn. The use of a book within the story may have worked in the source novel, but here, it just makes us long to be inside Inkheart instead of this drab film.

Even the dependable Brendan Fraser can't save the uneven and off-putting film. He's made a career of playing the reluctant hero, and Mo is no exception, but there's simply no spark here. The story does little to entice the viewer and it doesn't even have the decency to bring in the inevitable and predictable plot twist. My children were bored with the movie, and I was surprised by the amount of gunplay for a PG movie. I certainly would like to see Brendan Fraser continue to make adventure films, but he needs to avoid ones like this.

Inkheart is torn from a book and onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a minute amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of detail and the depth, most notably in the landscape shots, is very good. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and show good stereo separation. The surround sound and subwoofer effects, most notably during the finale, are very effective. They don't blow you away, but they are noticeable and certainly add to the movie.

The Inkheart Blu-ray Disc carries an assortment of extras. "A Story from the Cast and Crew" (7 minutes) begins with author Cornelia Funke beginning a story and then various others must fill in the rest. "From Imagination to the Page: How Writers Write" (11 minutes) is essentially an interview with Funke (intercut with scenes from the film) where she explains her writing process from the plot to the characters to the settings. The Disc contains nine DELETED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. We get an alternate opening, some extended scenes, and a few moments which help to fill some gaps in the film. "Eliza Reads to Us" (4 minutes) has actress Eliza Hope Bennett reading allowed from the Inkheart novel.

Warner Home Video has also brought Inkheart to DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image has a distinctive crispness to it. There is some mild blurring at times, but otherwise, an impressive transfer. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects aren't as good as those found on the Blu-ray Disc, but they are still quite good and give the movie much needed presence.

The only extra on the DVD is "Eliza Reads to Us".

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long