Inkheart (2009)

Rated: PG for fantasy adventure action, some scary moments and brief language.
Length: 106 minutes
Grade: CBCC=C
Budget: $60 million
Box Office: $62 million (17 U.S., 40 Intl., 5 DVD)

Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (Robots), based on the book by Cornelia Funke.
Directed by: Iain Softley (Skeleton Key, K-Pax, Wings of the Dove, and Hackers)
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Sienna Guillory, Andy Serkis, and Eliza Bennett.

A man with the power to read books out loud and make the events or characters become real struggles against some of his former invocations to rescue his wife who is trapped within a novel as part of the consequence of his readings.

Entertainment Value: C
I’m beginning to think that I’m more of a curmudgeon than I like to think. In my own mind, I’m pretty easy to please but the problem is that so many movies just don’t perform. I loved the idea of this movie which is somewhat similar to the equally unspectacular Adam Sandler effort, Bedtime Stories. I guess I get annoyed when someone comes up with a really neat premise and then can’t make it into an equally cool end result. I feel like it’s even worse than a merely ordinary movie because it seems like such an opportunity squandered. In this case, the plot is really weak, the acting isn’t great, and a movie I really thought would be great for kids we stopped watching with them because it got too scary. And although I worry I’m becoming less easy to please, I note that the movie made less than 1/3 of its budget back in US box office, so apparently I’m not alone on this one.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol , Sex/Nudity A, Violence C+, Language B, Illegality B
The biggest concern here are scary scenes and violence. There are lots of scenes with armed henchmen and many characters are killed in semi-creepy ways. But there are several scenes which I just thought were scary for young children, including one fairly near the beginning which I’m glad we didn’t let the boys watch. I’d say that this is PG-8 or 9.

Significant Content: C
Here’s the problem. This movie, typical of Brendan Fraser movies, raises some interesting ideas but never does very much to help you explore them or to investigate them in the movie proper. The main idea here is that the written word spoken aloud has great power, and characters have more substance than being merely ideas in our heads.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
In the Wizard of Oz, the main henchmen of the wicked witch of the West were the flying monkeys. They were slightly scary, but really cool at the same time. The henchmen in this movie are just scary and ugly with no element of cool at all. I’m not sure I can quite explain what the problem with the style here was, but I just didn’t like it. Maybe it was the bad haircuts or the weird writing on the faces, but something here just didn’t sit well with me for most of the movie.

Discussion Questions:
~Are characters in books real or completely imaginary? Are they more real when they have been written down and read by other people? What does it mean that we love them, care about them, and even refer to them like we might to friends? Why are we so bothered when characters in subsequent books (or television shows) start behaving inconsistently with their previous nature? ~Does imagining something give it any status as a real thing? Authors sometimes create characters who then constrain their writing because they don’t “want” to behave the way the plot seems to need them to. How does this insight affect your answer?
~Why is the ability to distinguish between “reality” and “make-believe” such an important developmental step for children? Is it possible that this isn’t really such a clear distinction as we usually believe?
~We tend to want to say that characters have some level of reality because of their “knownness” by us, but that it’s less than our own. Have you ever considered the possibility that this is similar to the relationship between us and God, Who is fully real and far more so than we are? Following this line of thinking, are we imitating God when we create characters? What similarities exist between authors and God? Do you think God is responsible for our character?
~Do we have any ethical obligations to the characters we create? If you knew that characters were real, although perhaps less so than yourself, would you treat them differently? What would you think of a silvertongue killing the characters he has read into reality? Is it the same as an “ordinary” murder? Is it any different if the author simply kills a character off in a novel?
~Would you want the power of a silvertongue? If you had this power, would you read differently? How, exactly?
~The grandmother has a love of books, but does her devotion to books seem unbalanced or problematic to you? Is there something pathetic in her preference for books over real people and real adventures? What does this say about us who enjoy books? Television? What are the advantages and disadvantages of gaining knowledge through books rather than from personal experience?
~Would you want to know how your own story ends? To what degree does your belief that God already knows your whole story in advance feel like a constraint on your own freedom?

Overall Grade: C
Fanciful, but dark. Creepy dark.

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