Books come to life: Coraline and Inkheart – Movie Reviews

I really like the trend to bring books to the screen. I especially like it when they bring fantasy books to life because the technology has reached the point where they can really make magical elements look convincingly real. That hurdle out of the way, fantasy books (especially children and young adult fantasy) have so many imaginative and amazing elements to them and such classic themes, that they are excellent source material for some unforgettable and wonderful films like the Harry Potter series or the Narnia franchise, not to mention the daddy of them all, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I hope that this trend only continues so that movie makers can continue to use these kinds of books to inspire some wonderful movies.


I didn’t see Inkheart in the theaters on opening weekend — even though it seems up my alley — because of the trailer. The trailer made it seem like the producers were going to make lots of changes from the book to the screen. I had just finished the book, and (while I wasn’t crazy about it), nevertheless, I’m not a fan of straying too far from the original source material either. It looked like they were going to add a major change to the plot. When I got to the theater and found out that the showing of Coraline was not going to be in 3-D, I decided to see Inkheart instead, and I’m glad I did. It turns out they did not really change very much after all.

Brendan Fraser stars as bookbinder Mo Fulchart, who can bring characters to life just by reading their stories aloud. It’s an amazing gift, but came at a cost when he lost his wife as a result. When he and his daughter go traveling in Germany, they come across Inkheart, the book that he’s been looking for all this time. They also find an old acquaintance who’s been looking for him. They are taken prisoner by Scorpio, one of the villains that Mo read out of Inkheart. What follows is an adventure involving daring rescue, people in distress, and literally discovering the power of the written word.

One of the things I didn’t love about the original novel was that most of the action happens in the regular world. Even though there are many characters who have been brought to life from the Inkheart book (along with all their peculiarities) it’s still a little bit mundane. By putting the story on screen, there’s a bit more of that movie magic but there just isn’t enough of that extra wonder that some of the previous fantasy movies have had. All the performances are fine, especially a cartoonish Helen Mirren as a book-obsessed grand dame. In the end, I’m glad I saw this movie because it made my memories of the book a little bit better, but it’s only a meager 4 out of 5.


I had high hopes for this latest stop-motion animation movie from Tim Burton and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. I started the book to get ready for the movie, but frankly I found the book a bit dull. The story centres around a young girl named Coraline who discovers a doorway to another world in her home. In that world, she finds replicas of her own parents and neighbours. In some ways, the replicas are better than the originals (who don’t seem to have any time for Coraline). However, they have a creepy quality that doesn’t sit well with her (or the audience). Both Burton and Gaiman are great for infusing this unsettling quality in their creations. What left me disappointed about this film/book is that it’s not very original. Sadly, it too resembles a replica of previous classics such as Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, or any number of horror movies where some things that seem nice at first turn out to be monstrous.

The animation, however, is still very nice… well, not nice exactly, but it looks looks good in that spindly way that Tim Burton movies such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride look good. Trademark bizarre and quirky caricatures that surrounds Coraline include a Russian acrobat with a rat circus, two old burlesque dancers, and a made-just-for-the-movie character called Wybie, who’s a buddy for Caroline.

I saw this movie in 3-D, and as is normally the case with recent 3-D movies, the 3-D is done in a somewhat subtle way (not too many things come flying at you from the screen) so that you don’t notice it after a while. What it serves to do is just draw you into the world of the film. This movie was pretty vivid, and the 3-D really helps. Unfortunately, despite all those good comments, I just didn’t find this movie to be anything too special overall. 3.5 out of five.


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