3 out of 5 stars

Mo (Fraser) is from a rare breed of Silvertongues; whenever he reads a story aloud, its characters come crashing to life. But unlike in Adam Sandler’s ditzy Bedtime Stories, where things change for the better, here every page-turning event tends to go wrong via jump-cutting, scratchy black-and-white flashbacks. Once villains materialize, Mo’s wife, Resa (Guillory), vanishes. Following a handy "12 years later" subtitle, Mo and his now-teenage daughter (Bennett) are poking around used bookstores in an Alpine village. Reading ensues, and various characters are conjured. Even Toto the dog appears (after a 70-year hiatus from the silver screen—welcome back, little fella), at which point things really get stormy. The evil Capricorn (Serkis) and his henchmen have escaped, half-written, from a novel, and as a result, have Jolie-esque lines of foreign script tattooed across their bodies.

Every action scene is coupled with lush visuals: A rooftop chase has Sound of Music mountains for a backdrop, while Mo’s MILF of a wife is more Vermeer scullery maid than browbeaten prisoner. It’s this, along with a melodious score from Javier Navarette (Pan’s Labyrinth), that will no doubt act as diaper-rash ointment for the film’s intended kiddie audience, protecting it from the aggregation of potential pants-wetting scenes involving parental separation.


Release details

Release date:
Friday January 23 2009
106 mins

Cast and crew

Iain Softley
David Lindsay-Abaire
Brendan Fraser
Andy Serkis
Sienna Guillory
Eliza Bennett
Paul Bettany
Jim Broadbent
Helen Mirren