Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) is a "Silvertongue." That's the title given to people who can turn books into real life just by reading them. The basis, a popular novel by Cornelia Funke, of course predates Adam Sandler's similar Bedtime Stories. And here, the fantasy mythology built around reading is an inclusive take on book-worm reclusiveness. The well-intentioned and conceptually interesting Ink Heart can mostly be enjoyed by viewers under 14. At best, it's lighter, more playful kid fantasy than last year's draggy City of Ember. Shot in picturesque Liguria, Italy, the visual enchantment is mostly in the background locatons. Director Iain Softley's worlds look stagier than the first two Mummy movies and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Fraser, meanwhile, is denied the comedic room those movies gave him---they established his charisma as an appealing, reluctant action hero.
Trying to retrieve his wife from the book that's trapped her in its pages, Mo and his daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) deal with power hungry villains. It's a fault of indistinct writing that they're not compelling sidekicks. Ink Heart should have had more fun with the concept of familiar stories becoming real, immersing this one in the narrative dilemmas of popular fairy tales. It needs more funny touches like the Silvertongue whose speech impediment creates illegible writing on his skin. The effects and scares are there for the younger set. The best of both worlds comes in the monstrous The Shadow at Ink Heart's climax. But the more movies you've seen, the less rapturous Ink Heart feels: It's a movie about magic without really having much of its own. (MP)