On DVD: Visual, computer effects drive home good message of ‘Inkheart’

Monday, June 22, 2009 at 9:00pm
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'Inkheart' is more than just a visually-stunning children's tale, it also celebrates the idea that reading cultivates the imagination.
 

Sometimes even an erratic film can make a good point, and that was certainly the case with Inkheart. The film co-starring Brendan Fraser and Paul Bettany, which will be released on DVD Tuesday (New Line), was based on Cornelia Funke’s best-selling novel. That popular volume celebrates the idea that reading cultivates the imagination and is central to intellectual development.

But the various qualifiers and extra details in Funke’s work, plus the character subtleties, are toned down in Iain Softley’s film, which accelerated the visual effects and computer-generated flash and downplayed the lengthy segments with characters talking about the inspiration they received from various books in the past.

Still, the notion of a film where fictional characters can emerge off the printed page and into actual live sequences does have plenty of exciting moments. It helps that besides Fraser and Bettany the excellent cast also includes Eliza Bennett, Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren.

It juxtaposes bits from The Wizard of Oz, Knights of the Round Table and many other classics. But it faltered in the storytelling department, something that was probably inevitable because the intent was to hook audiences through the camera and special effects magic.

Another film based on a novel that didn’t do so well in the transformation process was Confessions of a Shopaholic, which also comes out on a two- DVD package Tuesday (Touchstone).

But the problem here isn’t so much with the characters as the fact that it’s almost completely unlike the book. Other than the main character (Isla Fisher), this is virtually a new property, one that doesn’t take the cynical or satirical approach favored in the book, which is more a send-off of greed and materialistic excess than a political manifesto.

By contrast, though the film is far from being a protest piece, there is more broad humor and slapstick essence here than in the book. Becky Bloomwood (Fisher) is desperate for a job on a fashion magazine and worms her way in by penning a column called “The Girl in the Green Scarf.”

Her efforts land her into some rather dicey territory, and she’s also in love with her boss (Hugh Dancy). The results here are 50 percent screwball romantic comedy and 50 percent farce, but that combination doesn’t equal the completely enjoyable tone of the novel. The second disc includes bloopers, a music video and deleted scenes.

TV on DVD

Even though it had scored good to excellent ratings for five previous seasons, the last year of the show Reba was shortened to 13 episodes. Some storylines involving long-running characters were completed, and McEntire, by now an established pro at clever quips and snappy comebacks, enjoyed a strong final season as the only sane person in a household full of wackos.

Reba: Season 6 (20th Century Fox), a two-disc set, will be released Tuesday. Besides all the episodes in the last year, there are some features designed to help bring the show’s loyal fans a sense of closure. Of course, Reba remains in syndication on both Lifetime and various local and super stations, and all five previous seasons are now on DVD.