Original plot, great acting—what more can you ask for?
Brendan Fraser, Andy Serkis and Eliza Bennett
Directed by Iain Softley

In “Inkheart,” Brendan Fraser loses his wife in a bizarre book-reading accident.

As a professional bookbinder, the silver screen’s newest big-time child-herder is a “silver tongue” a person who can literally bring a story to life simply by reading out loud. He releases a cast of knife-wielding meanies from the pages of an adventure book called Inkheart. But it isn’t a free lunch. His wife gets sucked into the book. That leaves him to wander the earth in search of another copy.

Even without a mother, he raises his daughter Maggie so well that she turns out English. They move around in pursuit of a rare copy of Inkheart. When he finally finds one in a European bookstore, one of the released characters, a rogue (Paul Bettany), finds him. Armed henchmen aren’t far behind. A Vokswagen bus is not an ideal getaway car. Soon they’re lost in a book, trapped in a fairy-tale castle on top of a mountain so remote that even the tax assessors seem to have missed it. It’s the hideout for Capricorn (Andy Serkis), the novel’s Bwahaha-ing evil bad guy.

So with a minotaur, The Wizard of Oz’ flying monkeys, and Peter Pan’s ticking crocodile, they await their execution in an underground dungeon. Where’s a good copy of The Slaughterhouse-Five when you need it? Helen Mirren plays a book-collecting aunt. Jennifer Connelly does a dialogue-free cameo as a faraway maiden. Is this an awkwardly placed paragraph? Well, it’s awkwardly placed casting.

A good concept? I would say yes. Director Iain Softley’s fairy tale does best when it jokes with its concept, bringing Toto to life, for instance, with a signature one-liner about being in Kansas .

Unlike other recent Harry-Potter-lookalikes, the story, based on the children’s books of Cornelia Funke, has a certain post-modern metafictional touch that I find appealing. Yet as film, it never really leaps off the page. For a film about stories being lifted from the page, the film seems like it would feel more comfortable right back there rather than the big screen.