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By G. Brian Davis | Posted 12/20/2006

Three years ago a teenager named Christopher Paolini surprised even himself by scaling the formidable heights of The New York Times best-seller list with his charming fantasy novel Eragon. Regrettably, that charm is lost in rookie director Stefen Fangmeier's poorly streamlined adaptation. Farm boy Eragon (Edward Speleers) stumbles onto a mysterious "stone" in the forest, which, of course, quickly hatches and grows into an indigo dragon, Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz). Before long, the evil empire murders Eragon's agriculturally inclined uncle, and our rustic hero sets off with an aging but mystical tutor (the ever-excellent Jeremy Irons) to join a rebellion. The troupe then slips into an imperial stronghold to rescue a white-clad princess, escapes, and proceeds to the rebels' hidden base. In the immortal words of Kevin Smith: "George Lucas gonna sue somebody!" Bungling the basics, Eragon tells what should be shown (emotion), shows what should be mysterious (the villains), and sheds the endearing details that held the unoriginal yet oddly compelling book together. Worst of all are the sparse, clumsy action sequences--somehow Fangmeier managed to strip the thrills from Paolini's fast-paced adventure. The resulting watered-down-for-PG drivel squanders A-list actors--Irons, Weisz, John Malkovich--on C-list directing and screenwriting, through a fatal "it's just a kids' flick" attitude.

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