Mr. McP and I have been reading Inkheart together and we have been very excited to see the film version. Sunday, I took him and Drama Queen and Miss G to see it, even though we haven't yet finished the book.
Quick plot overview: Mo and twelve-year-old Meggie, father and daughter, are really into books. Meggie's mother "went away" mysteriously, years before and Meggie is frustrated because the circumstances surrounding her mother's disappearance have never been explained to her. When a mysterious character named Dustfinger appears, babbling about an evil "Capricorn," the truth is revealed: when Mo reads aloud, characters come out of the books to live in our Earth. Which leads to problems if he happens to be reading aloud about particularly nasty people.
Here's what's wrong with the Inkheart movie: They took a PG-13 book and toned it down to a PG movie. That might make some parents more comfortable about taking their kids to see it, but the tradeoff is a film with almost no suspense or tension. For example, in the book, it is implied that Capricorn's maids--captured from surrounding villages or read out of his book-- are also sex slaves to Capricorn and his men. In the movie, the maids are exactly what they appear, houseservants. Not that I was hoping to see some sex slavery, I'm just saying the book is far darker and scarier than the movie. Indeed, the book is full of oblique references to the true horrors of Capricorn's deeds, although none of them are spelled out specifically. If they were, this wouldn't be a children's book. In the movie, Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis, is like the genial host of his daughter's debutante ball whereas in the book he is evil personified--a person who feels no remorse, who has no pleasure other than in causing pain to others. In the book, there's an absolutely fabulous, and extremely scary escape scene, which would have translated beautifully to film. The moviemakers restructure the escape, apparently in order to put in some special effects, but the result is a scene that lacks any suspense whatsoever.
Here's what else is wrong with the Inkheart movie: It takes itself way too seriously. There is almost no humor, and almost every attempt at humor falls flat. I didn't so much as crack a smile throughout the entire movie. At times, the dialogue is awful, especially in the beginning, when Meggie says things like, "Why won't you tell me what happened to Mum?" to which Mo responds, "I will ALWAYS take care of you!" Helen Mirren, as Aunt Elinor, is supposed to function as comic relief, but they didn't give her any good lines to work with.
Here's what is good about the Inkheart movie: The scenery. The book mostly takes place in Italy, and some of the movie must have been filmed there. Particularly impressive are the shots that show the long mountain climb to Capricorn's village. There is a lot to look at in this movie, thank goodness, because there's not much else about it that is entertaining. I did enjoy Paul Bettany's performance as Dustfinger, although like Helen Mirren, he was strangled by the abysmal screenplay. Some kids, of course, will not be as discerning as their parents. Mr. McP, who is nine, was literally on the edge of his seat for the entire second half of the movie. My twelve-year old said the movie was "OK" and my fifteen-year old liked it, but neither of them has read the book.
Tiny update about the gym teacher/early bus problem: Drama Queen adamantly refused to allow me to email the gym teacher. I considered going over her head, but decided to respect her wishes. It's not her fault that she had been late for class, but she immediately identified a way to correct her lateness on her own terms, which shows a sense of personal responsibility that I decided would be wrong to discourage. I don't like her out there waiting for that early bus, although at least I can wait with her for part of the week, and we've agreed that she will text me when the bus picks her up on the days that I can't wait with her.