My preteen son used to prattle on about the Eragon trilogy of books, so much of this film seemed familiar to me. Or perhaps it was because so much of the story's essence is blatantly distilled from the dozens of boilerplate fantasy movies that spilled out of the '80s, not to mention the obvious cribbing from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's unfortunate that after signing the paychecks of Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich (!), there was just enough money to ensure that the only memorable special effects are of a very impressive dragon (voiced, ridiculously, by Rachel Weisz) and a claustrophobic 'epic battleâ?� scene that's a cross between the one in Return of the King and a Quidditch match. Everything else is shot up close, not providing the scale that fantastic movies like this require. Populated by characters with lots of the letters 'x,â?� 'yâ?� and 'zâ?� in their names, the film's actors range from stilted (Ed Speleers' dazed take on Eragon) and lifeless (Irons, as Eragon's mentor) to hilariously affected (the rebel leader played by Djimon Hounsou). My son astutely noted that there's no way the 100-minute runtime could squeeze in all the details of the book, and he was right; all the trimming resulted in a plotline that's a pastiche of tired fate-demands-you-take-this-journey tropes. Nonetheless, for the armies of 12-year-old boys out there waiting for Peter Jackson to get off his fat butt and make The Hobbit already, Eragon will serve as a fine holiday time-killer. (PG)
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