Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Inkheart Is Less Than Magical

Plus, Slumdog and Frost/Nixon are Certified Fresh, Road is an exquisite bummer, and Underworld goes unscreened.

by | January 22, 2009 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got living literature (Inkheart, starring Brendan Fraser and Eliza Hope Bennett); political intrigue (Frost/Nixon, starring Michael Sheen and Frank Langella); domestic strife (Revolutionary Road, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio); and werewolf/vampire conflict (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, starring Rhona Mitra and Bill Nighy). What do the critics have to say?



Inkheart is a fantastical tale about the power of the printed word, but critics say this family movie doesn’t bring the appeal of Cornelia Funke’s source novel to compelling life. Inkheart stars Brendan Fraser as Mo Folchart, who’s a “Silvertongue” — when he reads books aloud, the fictional characters spring to life. However, this has the unintended consequence of summoning a villain who takes him hostage, and it’s up to his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) to save him. The pundits say Inkheart lacks the requisite whimsy and magic, and the result is a fantasy adventure in which a lot happens but too little inspires.


Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle is a director whose films nearly burst with energy, and critics say his latest, Slumdog Millionaire, has a kinetic vitality — and an infectious sweetness – that’s difficult to resist. The Certified Fresh Slumdog (which already won Best Picture at the Golden Globes and is going wide this week) tells the story of a street kid named Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), who makes a splash on an Indian game show, prompting officials to question whether he’s cheating. The pundits say Slumdog is a marvel, a heartfelt film shot with panache and featuring excellent performances. Check out Awards Tour, RT’s one-stop shop for awards season news, here.



It was one of the strangest episodes in television history: a self-promoting British TV personality was able to arrange a no-holds-barred interview with disgraced former president Richard Nixon. It’s an inherently compelling tale, and critics say Ron Howard’s Certified Fresh Best Picture nominee Frost/Nixon (expanding this week into wide release) is a taut, tense historical drama. Michael Sheen stars as David Frost, who was able to coax Nixon (Frank Langella) to sit down after three years of silence; though Nixon expects softballs, Frost turns out to be a bit more than he bargained for. The pundits say Frost/Nixon is a superbly acted character study, filled with razor-sharp dialogue and a palpable sense of time and place.


Revolutionary Road

A decade after Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet again find themselves playing characters on a sinking ship; however, in Revolutionary Road the vessel is their marriage. Critics say the movie (expanding this week into wide release) is handsomely crafted by Sam Mendes, but the result is an exquisite downer. DiCaprio and Winslet star as Frank and April, a young couple with dreams of ditching their humdrum suburban existence for the freedom and excitement of Paris; however, circumstance stymies them, and resentment follows. The pundits say Revolutionary Road looks immaculate, and the performances (especially a supporting turn by Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon) are outstanding, but some feel the movie is more tasteful than emotionally resonant.


Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Apparently, the folks behind the Underworld, Rise of the Lycans were expecting that critics would sink their claws into this werewolf/vampire horror/fantasy flick. Rhona Mitra plays Sonja, the daughter of vampire baddie Viktor (Bill Nighy), who has caught the eye of Viktor’s nemesis, the werewolf Lucian (Michael Sheen). Kids, it’s time to guess that Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Of Time and the City, director Terence Davies’ off-beat look at his hometown of Liverpool, is at 88 percent.
  • Crips and Bloods: Made in America, a documentary that examines at the root causes of the long-running gang war, is at 75 percent.
  • California Dreaming, a dark culture-clash comedy about a group of Marines stranded in a Kosovo village, is at 75 percent.
  • Donkey Punch, a British thriller about a Mediterranean holiday gone very wrong, is at 57 percent.
  • Outlander, the tale of an alien spaceship that crash-lands in Viking territory, is at 36 percent.
  • The Lodger, a loose remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 thriller starring Hope Davis and Alfred Molina, is at 29 percent.

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