Watch out, Brendan Fraser—Gollum is out to get you in Inkheart

Brendan Fraser seems to be stepping right from his character in the Mummy movies—and Journey to the Center of the Earth—into the role of Mo "Silvertongue" Folchart in Inkheart rather effortlessly. He's once again playing a befuddled parent who doesn't really know how to handle his kid and acts more like a kid himself.

He's a "Silvertongue," which means that whenever he reads a book aloud, characters come out of the book and people go into it. So that explains why he never reads to his 12-year-old daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) and why Mommy (Sienna Guillory) disappeared nine years ago, when he last read from an obscure book called Inkheart.

It really doesn't matter that Fraser seems the same as his other characters, because this is a story that mixes up a lot of characters from all sorts of stories and genres, and that is the point of the movie, which is also a best-selling book by Cornelia Funke.

And so there are references to books like The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings and A Christmas Carol, and there are creatures like minotaurs and unicorns and flying monkeys skulking around in a corner of the real world. Huck Finn's raft is conjured up, and so is a ticking crocodile.

Likewise, it's appropriate that the cast is a conglomeration of familiar faces from fantasy films. Guillory, of course, was Jill Valentine in Resident Evil: Apocalypse and elf princess Arya in Eragon.

Andy Serkis plays the bad guy, Capricorn, but he was also the CG-coated Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films. Paul Bettany as the fire-juggling Dustfinger was the albino priest in The Da Vinci Code, and Helen Mirren was in National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Jim Broadbent, as the author of Inkheart, is recognizable from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and is Horace Slughorn in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (The dog who plays Toto must be somewhere in Hotel for Dogs, too.)

Anyway, the movie is a fun PG romp of an adventure, directed by a guy who also can't be pegged to a specific genre: Iain Softley also directed the quirky SF movie K-PAX as well as the spooky horror The Skeleton Key and the computer crime thriller Hackers.

It's appropriate that the film has a blender-mix feeling that anything can happen at any moment, so no one is really ever in real jeopardy and it's just fun to see what characters pop up next. And occasionally there's a sprinkle of some adult humor and perhaps some unintentional political humor, such as Capricorn enthusing over the benefits of duct tape.

Inkheart is a safe and delightful family fantasy romp, but it's not something that audiences should read too much into.

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