Friday Family Movie Night: Inkheart
It was almost a year ago that we started having regular Friday family movie nights, and for months I've been meaning to start providing some of my feedback on the movies we watch. It's hard to find reviews for movies from a whole-family perspective (i.e. is this movie going to simultaneously enchant my children, keep my interest, and not freak out my three-year-old?) -- so providing that will, I hope, be a service for other parents and at the same time inspire you to give some great recommendations for future movie nights. Most of the movies I watch are available On Demand either free or for the lesser rental fees (I try to avoid the $4.99 new releases), and often on Netflix streaming as well.
One of my recent favorites was Inkheart, one of the large number of movies produced in recent years based on relatively new YA books. Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, is now on my shelf (a violation of my usual rule: read the book first so the movie doesn't give you spoilers) and I'm eager to read what I understand is a substantially different story than the movie.
Inkheart, the story of a man whose mysterious ability to pull characters out of the stories he reads aloud into the "real world" threatens to destroy his family, starts magically in a deeply terrifying way for a mother. You know what's about to happen as the father in the story -- Brendan Fraser (I know, but he's good) as Mo "Silvertongue" Folchart -- begins to read Red Riding Hood to his daughter, Meggie, as a baby. His wife (Sienna Guillory) looks lovingly on. And then, through the dark clouds, floats a red cape...
By the next scene, Meggy is a tween and her father is in search of a mysterious book. She believes her mother left them when she was a baby; her father has never told her the truth, although she knows he is looking for something important as he travels the world in search of old books. We slowly learn how the "silvertongue" gift works -- when a character is pulled out of a book a character from the real world must go in his place -- and the only way to get back is to read them back (somehow, I was unclear how that would work although it's set up as a solution early in the movie).
The fictional Inkheart, the book Mo was reading when his wife disappeared, is out of print and written by an eccentric old Italian man. It's a dark medieval fantasy, with an evil lord who summons a monster called the Shadow to help control his subjects. Two villains from the book, and Dustfinger (Paul Bettany, the best character in my opinion), a fire-eater from the evil lord's court, are sent by the evil Capricorn to retrieve the silvertongue. They have their own silvertongue, but he has a lisp and brings people into the real world with flaws (enchantingly, with black words tatooed across their bodies) -- Capricorn wants Mo to read the Shadow into existence and give him dominion over the modern world into which he's been brought.
There were some extremely scary scenes, though; the Shadow is a truly frightening monster, a black cloud of powerful evil that had Monroe (three and a half) telling me it was too scary for him. Evil is vanquished, and the bad guys turn to dust instead of dying, or disappear back into the book; the movie ends satisfyingly with no enduring sadness.
I wouldn't suggest this for young children who tend to let movie monsters inhabit their nightmares, nor kids who are terrified of fire (there's a scene in which a bunch of beautiful books are burnt; it terrified me not a little). The adult themes are all handled with a child in mind, so that it shouldn't be too old for an elementary-aged viewer; and it provides plenty of character development and thought-provoking plot for the parent. There's love, too, but not played with too much kissing and mooniness; I think it's great for boys and girls alike.
I'd recommend this movie as one of the better ones I've watched recently, for five or six years old (depending on your own child's tolerance for scary stuff) and older.