Interest in fantasy films that are geared toward families have been growing in popularity for years now and with such films as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Bedtime Stories popping up in theaters, it seemed only natural to further expand the genre with other adaptations and stories. Thus enters Inkheart, a family fantasy film akin to Bedtime Stories, but with a much more serious and dramatic angle. Although the critical reception was poor and its worldwide box office intake not even recouping the films $60 million budget, Warner (via New Line) wasted no time in bringing this April release to home video. The shocking thing about this film is that it really was quite a finely crafted outing.
When Mo Folchart reads a story, the characters leap off the page. Literally. And that’s a problem. Mo must somehow use his special powers to send the interlopers back to their world…and save ours. If ever a task was easier read than done, this is it. Mo and his daughter Meggie, aided by friends real and fictional, plunge into a thrilling quest that pits them against diabolical villains, fantastic beasts and dangers at every turn. Brendan Fraser (The Mummy films, Journey to the Center of the Earth) leads a splendid cast (including Academy Award winners* Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent) in an all-fun, all-family film of Cornelia Funke’s bestseller. Follow Mo and Meggie into adventure more exciting than any ever read. Because it’s adventure they’re going to live!
After watching Journey to the Center of the Earth just a few months back (actually I guess that was a full half a year back…oh how time flies), it was odd to see Brendan Fraser in another similarly fantastic looking family adventure. Still, I dove into the film, not really knowing what to expect other than that it would be a mediocre family outing—which, with these expectations in hand, actually led me to enjoy the film much more than I would have had I just gone in with only the trailer in mind.
There is no doubt in my mind that this film is riddled with plot holes and characters that make no real logical sense, but there’s a certain sense of enchantment that comes from this film regardless. I mean the film itself just pulls from source material of other, more popular novels such as The Wizard of Oz (there’s even a reference to Lord of the Rings in there as well…so double references to that since Andy Serkis plays the main baddy in Inkheart), but at the same time it’s just a really fantastical type adventure that, when analyzed too much, simply falls apart.
Let’s start with the story. Fraser’s character is looking for a book titled Inkheart, a novel in which his wife disappeared into years ago when their daughter was little. Fraser, as a “Silvertongue” can make anything written on paper become reality by merely reading it aloud…at the expense of someone or something else disappearing into the novel in their place. In the place of his wife several characters disappeared into the novel and all the while Fraser keeps this secret from his daughter and, at the same time, forbids her to read or write. This is basically the loose setup for the story, so while it’s one that’s dramatic from the start, it gives a solid footing for the story to start off with.
But…really, the remaining runtime of the film is just spent running around looking for copies of the book after Serkis’s character destroys it. It’s a very predictable and semi-witty film, but the main problem is it never sets itself out against other films with anything in particular. The CGI is really quite remarkable, but it doesn’t do enough to wow the audience (but does enough that it doesn’t look incredibly fake). The characters aren’t all that memorable, although Fraser and Mirren are easily likeable…but not enough that they stick with you.
In a nutshell that’s the main issue with the film—it simply doesn’t explain enough or do enough to really stand out. You certainly enjoy the time you spend with it, but it’s not so enjoyable that it really makes you want to watch it again. A nice little family outing to be sure, but nothing that will become a favorite by any means.
There are a few minor issues with the film as well, such as the very loose and sometimes hard to understand methods of how the whole Silvertongue thing works. When Fraser sends Bettany’s character back, Bettany figured he wouldn’t in fear of losing his wife again. But…no, Bettany transported back fine (to a very random cameo by Jennifer Connelly…kind of strange to have her pop up in a ten second role) and in his place some kind of bird came back. I’m not entirely sure how that whole transportation thing works though, but both Fraser and his daughter seem to get a remarkably quick handle on it all with ease.
Overall a film that’s worth a Rental at least. It’s certainly an enjoyable outing, but I can’t imagine ever really feeling the urge to watch this a second time.
Kudos to Disney! Yes, New Line put this title out but Disney started the trend of including DVD versions alongside the Blu-ray and Digital Copies of the film, so that the family can enjoy it in any room they’re in without dependence on a Blu-ray player. Granted it only seems to apply to children’s films so far, but it’s a step forward at least. The set itself arrives in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case, with both the DVD and Digital Copy editions being housed on one disc. Also included are inserts for firmware updates as well as digital copy redemption codes (which also doubles as the Blu-ray redemption code for that Buy 5, Get 1 Free promotion).
Video arrives in a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer that honestly looks very, very good. The color palette of the film is a bit washed out at times, but overall when the “fantasy” elements kick in there’s some brilliant golden hues and whatnot, but despite muted colors there’s still plenty of beautiful depth and detail to the image to glean. And, quite honestly, I was truly impressed by the CGI used in this film as at a $60 million budget I assumed much worse, as films that boast twice that budget have turned out CGI twenty times worse than what we get here. Audio is a TrueHD 5.1 mix (sadly after the Warner and New Line merge, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for all releases has been nixed) that does its job remarkably well, with terrific surround output and solid subwoofer usage.
A Story from the Cast and Crew (6:36, 1080i)
From Imagination to the Page: How Writers Write (10:38, 1080i)
Deleted Scenes (13:36, SD)
Eliza Reads to Us (3:46, 1080i)
Once again the deleted scenes are in standard definition which is a bit strange, but other than that the extras are all in high-definition 1080i. There’s not much here to look at in terms of extras, but there’s still some solid information to be gleaned from here…although with less than forty minutes worth of extras total, there’s not much here to check out once the end credits roll for the film. There are some BD-Live features supposedly, but they weren’t live at the time of this writing.
Overall a decent release but one that still only requires a Rental.
Inkheart arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on June 23rd.