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Inkheart may be a tad Lord of the Rings-ish, but it's still a whimsical, exciting and entertaining family flick.


Based on Cornelia Funke's best-selling children's book, Inkheart takes its literary inspirations literally. It revolves around a father, Mortimer "Mo" Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his 12-year-old daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett), who share a gift -- or curse -- of being able to make characters leap out of the pages just by reading aloud. Unfortunately, whenever they do this, a real person must then be transferred into the book as a replacement. It can get complicated, especially when Mo accidentally sends his wife (Sienna Guillory) into a book called Inkheart, only to bring out its villains to wreak havoc on the real world. He spends the next nine years, trying to find another copy of the book and bring her back, while one of the book's main characters, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), follows Mo, trying to get back into the book. An adventure waiting to happen!


The entire cast is wonderfully in tune with the whimsical tone of this inventive and clever story. Fraser doesn't stretch any acting muscles but serves the film well as its central father figure and hero. Bettany (Master and Commander), as the literary sidekick Dustfinger, steals the whole show, giving his character heaping amounts of irony, warmth and humanity. Joining them is Helen Mirren, who adds an element of elegance and uptightness as the great aunt swept along for the ride. Andy Serkis (LOTR's Gollum) is properly villainous throughout, while Brit Jim Broadbent (Iris) is daffy and hilarious as the author of Inkheart, who keeps complicating matters for everyone.


Inkheart uses sheer imaginative filmmaking prowess with an engaging story that feels as original and fresh as it does familiar. Director Iain Softley (Wings of the Dove) makes the most of the colorful European locations, including the picturesque Italian Riviera, transformed into storybook heaven. The film is well-paced, carrying a great subtle message about the powers of reading and creative writing. Much like the Oscar-nominated The Reader -- a wildly different kind of movie to be sure -- this film shows the joys of getting lost, and in this case, found in the world of books.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.