“Inkheart” gets away with a lot, or gets many flaws forgiven, because a) it’s a kid’s story, and b) it flaunts an extravagant love of books. Not just stories, which you can get in movies just fine, but books. The act of reading, the smell of old pages, the thrill of finding a book you lost years ago in an musty old bookstore. “Inkheart” is so in love with the wonder and magic of words on a page, it sometimes forgets it’s a movie. Which is forgiveable.
It also gets away with a lot because it’s a pretty good, rollicking story. There’s more going on here, in terms of plot and character, than in three run-of-the-mill Disney movies. Brendan Fraser is the father of tweenish Eliza Bennett, and they both possess a strange talent: when they read books aloud, the characters come alive. Literally. But this is no Adam Sandler toss-off; whenever a character appears from the pages of the book, someone gets sucked into the book. This is how Fraser lost his wife, and now he’s on a quiet quest to find her.
Trouble is, the book that swallowed her (titled “Inkheart, thus the title of the movie) isn’t very popular, and finding copies of it is made especially hard because one of the characters he read out (the wonderfully slimy Andy Serkis) is also hunting the books, and burning them. He doesn’t want to go back. In fact, he wants to use Fraser’s power to take over this world. He’s already got a castle, and a bunch of henchman, and whole stable full of minotaurs and flying monkeys.
“Inkheart” moves quick and doesn’t stop to explain much, perhaps because there’s no explanation. (One wonders, for instance why Fraser doesn’t get ahold of a Tom Clancy and put an end to Serkis once and for all.) A fire juggler (Paul Bettany,) a crazy bibliophile aunt (Helen Mirren) Farid from Arabian Nights (Rafi Gavron) and Inkheart’s author (Jim Broadbent) all get involved, until what we have, mostly, is a giant tangle of characters in trouble or on the run. But “Inkheart” builds to a satisfyingly exciting and creative conclusion, the kind that involves truly scary monsters and little girls with the power to stop them. It’s a lot of fun, pretty creative, and really in love with books. What more can you ask for?