Where were all these movies when I was a kid? Maybe it's because of technological advancements in special effects, or maybe it's the boggling success of Harry Potter, but today's youth are spoiled for choice when it comes to movies filled with magic and swords—The Lord of the Rings, Stardust, The Chronicles of Narnia. When I was growing up, we had to content ourselves with the likes of Krull and Willow.

Not that I'm bitter, really. Because today's kids also have to suffer through dreck like Inkheart, based on a hugely successful book I'd never heard of until right now. It's written by Cornelia Funke, AKA "the German J.K. Rowling" (I did not coin this honorific), and it's about a guy who reads stories aloud only to have them come to life. So yeah, it's the same premise as Bedtime Stories, that shitty Adam Sandler movie that opened a couple weeks ago.

Brendan Fraser plays the guy, but before you run screaming out of the theater, you should know that Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent are also in the movie, Paul Bettany gives a really good performance as a character "read" to life, and Andy Serkis—Gollum in The Lord of the Rings—is a salaciously wicked villain.

So the question, then, is what the hell is Brendan Fraser doing in this movie? Well, turns out Funke is a huge fan of "the Frase" (I did coin this honorific) and had him in mind while she wrote Inkheart. This stands to reason, since Fraser's character, Mortimer "Silvertongue" Folchart (yep, that's actually his name), is tedious, uninteresting, unheroic, stupid, and kind of a jerk. Or maybe that's just the way Fraser plays everybody.

Folchart and his daughter Meggie (a capable Eliza Hope Bennett) are hunting for Meggie's missing mother, who has vanished into the pages of a book. You see, whenever Folchart reads something to life out of a book, something from the real world must take its place. Of course, things go awry, and other wacky characters spill out, including a thief from the Arabian Nights, a plot development that, frankly, I am still confused by. But Inkheart is intent on letting you know that books are magically wonderful, and thusly shoots itself in the foot—you'll wish it would hurry up and end so you can go home and read.