The film opens with Mortimer "Mo" Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Teresa "Resa" Folchart (Sienna Guillory) reading the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" to their baby daughter Meggie, as a red velvet hood appears out of nowhere. Twelve years later, Meggie (Eliza Bennett) and her father visit an old book shop in Europe, unaware that Mo is secretly looking for a copy of the book Inkheart. Meggie finds it. Shortly thereafter, she encounters a marten with horns outside the shop, who tries to bite her fingers. A man (Paul Bettany) suddenly appears from the shadows, claiming to be an old friend. Mo comes out of the shop, recognizing the man as Dustfinger, who quickly asks him to read him back into the book. Mo flees with Meggie.
Mo takes Meggie to visit her great-aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren) in Italy. There he tells Meggie that nine years ago, reading to her from Inkheart, he inadvertently freed Dustfinger, due to a gift he possessed from birth. Unfortunately, the book's villain, Capricorn (Andy Serkis), and his henchmen were also freed. Fleeing with his infant daughter, Mo lost Resa. Dustfinger and Capricorn's minion, Basta (Jamie Foreman), arrive. Basta captures the group and takes Inkheart, destroying Elinor's library. They are taken to Capricorn's new castle in the real world. During their imprisonment, Mo explains his gift to Meggie and Elinor, stating that when he reads a person or an object out of a book, someone from the real world is sent into it, hence his wife's disappearance. Capricorn forces Mo to use his gift, acquiring treasure from one of the stories in The Arabian Nights, and imprisoning Farid (Rafi Gavron), one of the 40 Thieves. Dustfinger, who was promised a return into the book, is betrayed by Capricorn. Nevertheless, the group escapes using the tornado from The Wizard of Oz.
Meggie proposes to search for the author of Inkheart, Fenoglio (named in honor of Italian writer Beppe Fenoglio), as he may have another copy. Elinor leaves to recover what is left of her library as the others head for the author's town, Alassio. Dustfinger is initially afraid of learning his fate in the book, but later joins them. When they meet Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the author's ecstatic mood upon seeing his creation alive makes Dustfinger realize he dies at the end, trying to save his marten, Gwin. Angry, he berates Fenoglio before eventually telling Mo that Resa is trapped in the castle and has lost her voice.
Mo and Dustfinger take Fenoglio's car; Farid stows away in the trunk. At Fenoglio's house, Meggie begins reading a number of books out loud, bringing Toto from The Wizard of Oz. Basta bursts in with his men. Noticing Toto, he takes them to Capricorn. Elinor, who decided not to take the train home, realizes something was amiss and pursues them. At the castle, Capricorn reveals he plans to bring the Shadow, the monster of Inkheart. He threatens to harm Meggie's mother if she does not comply. Mo sneaks into the castle. Dustfinger is captured, but escapes after Meggie informs him of Capricorn's intentions.
Mo attempts to free Meggie and others, as Capricorn forces her to bring the Shadow. Dustfinger returns to the castle with Farid, setting it alight. The distraction allows Fenoglio to give Toto a rewrite he made to help Meggie stop Capricorn's plan. As Elinor arrives with the creatures Capricorn imprisoned, Meggie writes out the story on her arm. As she reads out her creation, Capricorn turns into dust, his henchmen and the Shadow vanish, and all the read-out creatures back are returned where they belong, including Toto. In addition, she grants Fenoglio's wish to live in the world he created, while reuniting her and Mo with her mother and restoring her voice. In the end, Dustfinger is also safely read back into Inkheart, where he is reunited with his wife Roxanne. In the real world, Farid reveals he kept Gwin with him, thus allowing Dustfinger to avoid his fate and have control over his destiny. As Mo and his family leave with Farid, Meggie agrees to teach him how to read while Farid agrees to teach her how to use the dragon breath.Brendan Fraser as Mortimer "Mo" Folchart
Eliza Bennett as Meggie Folchart
Paul Bettany as Dustfinger
Helen Mirren as Elinor Loredan
Andy Serkis as Capricorn
Jim Broadbent as Fenoglio
Rafi Gavron as Farid
Sienna Guillory as Teresa "Resa" Folchart
Lesley Sharp as Mortola
Jamie Foreman as Basta
Matt King as Cockerell
John Thomson as Darius
Jennifer Connelly as Roxane
Marnix Van Den Broeke as The Shadow
Steve Speirs as Flatnose
Jessie Cave as Nymph
Adam Bond as Prince Charming
Tereza Srbova as Rapunzel
Emily Eby as Guinevere
Roger Allam as Narrator
Paul Kasey as Minotaur
Shortly after the novel was published, author Cornelia Funke sent a copy of Inkheart along with a note to Brendan Fraser, explaining that he was her inspiration for the character of Mo.
"So I get this book. It shows up in the mail. 'Dear Brendan,' it's inscribed, 'Thank you for inspiring this character.' I can feel my leg getting pulled already. 'What? Where’s Ashton Kutcher?' 'I hope that you get a chance to read this aloud to your kids one day. Best wishes, Cornelia Funke.' I had no idea from a bar of soap who she was, so I Googled her. Wow, so much work, she’s prolific. I think part of the story is that a little girl who was bilingual, I think she was a Brit but she spoke German fluently, had discovered a copy of Tintenherz which she loved and read, and wrote to either it was Cornelia or the publisher and asked why isn't this published in English? And I think Cornelia probably wanted to know the answer to that question too. So once it was, it just became a snowballing thing and then that really got her out there and led to the acclaim and popularity of her work."
It was this that motivated director Iain Softley and the casting department to consider Fraser first for the role in the film. Fraser told Softley that if it was determined that he was not right for the role, not to feel obligated to use him on the project. Softley was ultimately impressed with Fraser's performance and contracted him for the film. Public auditions were held for the role of Meggie Folchart with the intention of casting an unknown actress, however the role eventually went to Eliza Bennett who had already worked extensively on television and film at the time. Funke, was quoted as saying that "we had our second screening (summer 2007), which went well, and I really loved the movie, but they are still changing things, especially at the end." Inkheart was filmed at Shepperton Studios near London, England and on location in Balestrino, Albenga, Entracque and Laigueglia, Italy, in 2006 and 2007.
[A] lot of the things that we tried to do are more to do with optical illusion, the sleight of hand....It feels very organic and very real, and I actually think it makes the magic more effective. I think that there is a sort of discounting that goes on in the minds of an audience when they know that it's sort of a computer world or a digital world. It's like, 'Oh, they can do anything. They can press a button for however many weeks they need at a machine.' Whereas if you actually get the sense that it's something more like the craft of illusion, I think that it's more magical, actually.
The production also visited Hever Castle in Kent to shoot the exterior for Elinor's Tuscan villa setting.
Double Negative created the menacing animated character, The Shadow, along with other creatures and visual effects for the film. The finale of the film takes place within a ruined amphitheater nestled in the Italian mountains; this is the lair of Capricorn, one of the villains Mo has accidentally "read" into the real world. The visual effects work included the digital augmentation of the bluescreen set, the billowing, pyroclastic monster, The Shadow, the surreal winged monkeys with their raven black feathers and Capricorn's final transition.Munich Schmankerl - performed by the Bavarian Band and Chorus
My Declaration - performed by Eliza Bennett
As with the production of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the production progressed very slowly. The American release was originally set for Christmas 2007, but then was changed from its original release date of Christmas 2007 then towards March 19, 2008. Due to the writer's strike, the film was pushed back more and more then opened December 12, 2008 in the UK and January 23, 2009 in the US.
Inkheart was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on April 13, 2009. It was released in the United States on June 23, 2009.
Inkheart has a rating of 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 140 reviews. It received an average score of 5.1 out of 10. Their consensus is "Heavy on clichés and light on charm, this kid-lit fantasy-adventure doesn't quite get off the ground." Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter disliked the film, saying: "Whatever made the German novel Inkheart by Cornelia Funke so popular that it got translated into 37 languages is nowhere in evidence in its film version", and "The main problem is the central concept itself." On the other hand, Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic enjoyed the film, saying: "Inkheart is entertaining enough, if not always easy to follow. And if it does nothing else, at least it may inspire kids to read, if for no other reason than to help make sense of it all." A. O. Scott said the film "aims for a blend of whimsy and tingly suspense but botches nearly every spell it tries to cast. Its opening scenes are more confusing than intriguing, and the acceleration of the plot leads to a sense of busyness rather than suspense. A movie that can produce the image of Helen Mirren astride a unicorn has some claim on the audience’s interest, and a movie that can make that image seem perfectly uninteresting is in some serious trouble." The film grossed $2,110,000 during its opening day in 2,655 theaters. It opened at #7 at the U.S. box office with $7,725,000, with a worldwide gross of close to $13 million. It yielded just $1 million from its opening in the UK, ranking fourth, while coming in third at $1.8 million in Germany. It later came to make $5,781,992 in the UK, $10,112,691 in Germany, $1,222,364 in Australia, $1,484,027 in France, $3,289,477 in Italy, $1,815,500 in Taiwan, $2,951,290 in Spain, $2,665,476 in South Korea, $1,681,477 in Russia, $2,378,200 in Mexico, and $1,080,825 in Malaysia, plus $4,187,389 from smaller countries. Inkheart made $17,303,424 in the United States, and $45,146,937 internationally, making the final worldwide gross of the film to be $62,450,361. It made $8.3 million in US DVD sales during its first week.
On January 12, 2009, a video game based on the film was released for the Nintendo DS.