Complete A-Z list



Stars: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, Eliza Hope Bennett, Sienna Guillory, Rafi Gavron, Jamie Foreman, Steve Spiers

Director: Iain Softley

Pining for Potter and concerned to learn whether the little wizard has developed acne yet?

Well, while you’re waiting, here’s a good-hearted family fantasy to be going on with, featuring Fraser as a ‘Silvertongue’, possessing the supernatural ability to bring fictional characters to life by reading aloud. Unfortunately, he accidentally ‘reads’ his wife Guillory away in the process, leaving him and his 12-year-old daughter Bennett to search for the eponymous book he needs to bring Guillory back, facing a bestiary of book-freed characters and villain Serkis who kidnaps Bennett to do his evil bidding…

While the storyline, based on a best-selling German novel, travels on familiar enough lines, Softley keeps things bubbling away merrily, using excellent special effects to great effect and sensibly serving his target audience of thrill-seeking youngsters rather than sucking up to cineastes. And, as a bonus, accompanying adults, too, are competently catered for. It may not be ‘art’ as we know it, Jim, but it's fine family entertainment.

As current fantasy adventures go, it’s above-average, even if Fraser doesn’t get to take on yet another Mummy. Instead we are offered everything from flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz, a ticking crocodile and, enjoyably, Mirren – whose exaggerated impression of Lady Bracknell is great fun - riding riotously across the screen on a unicorn.

American Fraser is well supported by British actors: Bennett is a real find, Broadbent twinkles away to the manner born, Serkis is slimy enough to be an MP and Bettany emotes away as a book-escaped character yearning to go back between the covers.

Alan Frank

Gernany/UK/USA 2008. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Dec 2008