It's an interesting premise to begin with, having the power to bring to life characters and events to the real world by just reading relevant passages. I can figure it out already, where to get fame and fortune from the right literature to read out loud. But with great power comes realization and responsibility, and because there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's always payback in the most unexpected forms.
While I haven't read the book by Cornelia Funke, what got translated on screen did get a little boring, bogged down by bad lines, uninteresting characters, and humour which fell flat each time. The trailer might have painted an epic adventure with boundless possibilities from plundering the premise, but too bad a lot of books got burnt from the start, leaving The Wizard of Oz the highlight of the lot. It was fun while it lasted though, in trying to identify characters and objects from various well known stories, such as the Gingerbread House, but these sprung out like little nuggets for those in the know to spot with glee.
Otherwise, we're left with Brandan Fraser's Mo Folchart, nicknamed "Silvertongue" by the characters he brought to life because of his innate gift, which had banished his wife to the books to take the place of those that came out. With his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett), they scour the corners of the world to look for the same book Inkheart, in the hopes of figuring out how to reverse the changes, and get back their loved one, wife Resa (Sienna Guillory). Fraser is being Fraser the big budgeted blockbuster hero, and doesn't show much expression from his repetoire of movies from the Mummy franchise to flicks like Journey to the Center of the Earth, playing very much the concerned dad.
And if you think a bland hero is bad, a bland villain is miles worst. There are countless of villanous characters here, courtesy of the Inkheart book, that pepper the story, and they are the standard dumb goons. Even Andy Serkis' Capricorn is nothing more than an average cowardly henchman status with the sole objective of wealth accumulation, and hams it up so much that the villain becomes a comedian, and a bad one at that. Shades of Lord of the Rings come courtesy of his attempt to bring to life "The Shadow", the pale cousin to the Dark Lord Sauron.
Surprisingly, a string of recognizable stars are involved in this film, such as Helen Mirren playing Meggie's grand aunt Elinor Loredan, equipped with a big mouth that whines too much, and Jim Broadbent as the reel Inkheart author Fenoglio, who relished every moment of interacting with his characters, yearning for a chance to try and get into the book because whatever glimpses he had over in the real world, was an orgasmic walk into his own imagination, as he quipped. But I felt the best character here was Paul Bettany's Dustfiner, a lone figure marred in melancholy who for nine torturous years, had unsuccessfully tried to convince Mo to send him back.
Kudos to Bettany's acting of course, with so much pain in his expression he makes you pity his character, put in a world not to his liking, and very much against his wishes, because like Mo, he yearns to reconcile with his family, and what more when his wife Roxanne is played by his real wife Jennifer Connelly in a cameo role. In fact, his Dustfinger got put into more interesting situations in the film compared to the rest, and thus inevitably steals the show with a character motivation that's easily identified with. And he really showed off his range of emotions when he inevitably had to hear spoilers, which was the only time in the entire movie which I felt genuinely though tragically comedic.
Inkheart is like an adult fairy tale, and could have been like Stardust which I had enjoyed, with its star power and unique premise. A pity though that it was delivered rather plainly and had neither the depth nor anything unexpected to ruffle what essentially was a one-way train going through the motions on its tracks from start to end.