Sunday Afternoon Movie: Inkheart [2008]


For me, Sunday Afternoons are the perfect time to explore undemanding movies that have either alluded me until now or are deeply treasured motion pictures that helped forge the man with limited social skills that writes these very words now. Based on the bestselling book by Cornelia Funke, Inkheart has all the elements for launching a successful movie franchise yet somehow manages to bungle the whole thing up with entertaining results.

Mo (Brendan Fraser) and his daughter Meggie are the last in a long line of silver tongues; they alone possess the power to bring characters and events from any book into the real world. Since his wife disappeared into a rare book (Inkheart), Mo has been searching for a way to bring her back. He thinks his quest in nearing its end when he meets Dustfighter (Paul Bettany), a doomed character from the book he has been seeking these long years. Aided by Meggie’s great-aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren), they track down the eccentric author of the book (Jim Broadbent) in the hope that he has a copy. However, their simple mission grows more dangerous when the book’s villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis) is freed from the pages and wants the silver tongues for his own nefarious purposes.

Directed by Iain Softly’s (Hackers, Backbeat), Inkheart biggest downfall is its tantalising concept, as Mo and his daughter can summon the aide of any literary character you would think they might read from something useful. Just an idea, but why not bring forth a horde of angels, or at the very least The Fellowship of the Ring, they’d be handy in a pinch. There might be something that explains this away in the book, but as I’ve never read it I can only go by what’s on screen.

At times, Inkheart almost pulls off its high-concept and adds to neat little touches, such as Paul Bettany’s Dustfighter is having an existential crisis as he doesn’t want to meet his author and find out how his story ends. On a side note, there’s a glorious cameo from Bettany’s real-life spouse, Jennifer Connolly, who is dressed like she’s been living with the Goblin King for the last two decades. Frustratingly, the supporting cast is far better drawn that Fraser’s supposed lead, we learn more from five minutes with Mirren, Broadbent or Bettany than we do from a whole movie full of Mo. That might say more about acting ability  than screenwriting, but nonetheless, it’s an irksome trait that runs throughout.

I sometimes lay awake at night and wonder what happened to the once buoyant career of Brendan Fraser. So, to spare myself any further restless nights I have compiled a brief history aka The Rise And Fall of Brendan Fraser’s Career.

INKHEART FerretBack in the 90s he scored a run of modestly successful movies, California Man, Airheads and in 1997 George of the Jungle gave him his first box office hit as a leading man. The underrated Blast From The Past was followed later that year (1999) with the monster smash The Mummy. Then it all started to go a bit wrong, back to back flops Dudley Do-Right, and Bedazzled were offset by the success of The Mummy Returns, so Fraser was back to being bankable (ish). He followed The Mummy Returns up with an acclaimed turn in The Quite American opposite Michael Caine. Then something occurred that once seen can never be unseen, Looney Tunes: Back in Action flopped and even a role in Paul Haggis’ Crash couldn’t salvage the damage.

In 2008, Fraser Fever threatened to heat up again with back to back hits Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Mummy 3 bringing Fraser back into the mainstream. Sadly, he couldn’t capitalise on either success; he turned down Journey 2 (which was snapped up by Dwayne Johnson) and despite its $400 million takings of Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, there was no Mummy 4. Aside from woeful kids flick Furry Vengeance and a voice role on Escape From Planet Earth, Fraser hasn’t worked since 2014’s The Nut Job. We may never discover the full reasoning for why Fraser’s….oh I just Googled it and apparently Fraser went bankrupt and is unable to work more owing to medical issues. Another mystery solved!

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Inkheart is a sorely underrated fantasy romp, the plot is riddled with holes, logic gaps (even for a fantasy) and some of the acting reeks of ham. That said, Softly delivers an adventure brimming with ideas that almost very nearly work, plus, there’s an adorable ferret that steals every scene he’s in. Perfect after dinner viewing.

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