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Regardless of your feelings about the fantasy genre, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: Elves should not be 5-foot-6. But in Eragon, key elf Arya (Sienna Guillory) stands tall next to her fellow characters; she even has human ears. (Whoops!) This sloppiness is indicative of director Stefen Fangmeier and scripter Peter Buchman’s butchering of Christopher Paolini’s popular novel of the same name. The book, which the now-23-year-old Paolini began writing at 15, is full of magic and lore, yet it hardly gets the intensive Harry Potter treatment. Instead, its 544 pages are crushed into a 104-minute film, with characters dropped and plots manipulated. And at the center of it all is a talking dragon, Saphira, voiced by Rachel Weisz. (Perhaps another universal opinion: Fierce, fire-breathing dragons should not drop one-liners, especially Buchman’s.) When she shuts up and races across the sky, Saphira is the biggest wow factor in the film, but she doesn’t have a lot of competition: Her rider, Eragon (a Tiger Beat–ready Edward Speleers), is the boy of disinterest here, a 17-year-old farmhand who’s hunting when an ovular blue thing appears on the ground through a portal, I suppose, since it’s smoking. Eragon gapes at it then brings it to his shack, where he gapes at it some more. Soon it hatches into a cute widdle feathered dragon, and—blah blah—Eragon discovers with the help of Brom, a grizzled former dragon rider (Jeremy Irons), that he’s been chosen to resurrect this…mode of transportation, which became extinct when Brom’s own flying beast was intentionally killed. The plot also involves an occupation, the aforementioned guess-who’s-she’s-destined-for elf who’d been carrying the egg, and a black-magic dude (Robert Carlyle) who’s trying to get Saphira back to her rightful owner, the evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich, using his haughty purr to make his few minutes of screen time seem Oscar-worthy compared to the rest of the cast). The movie is as beautiful—it was filmed mostly in the green mountains of Hungary—as the story is predictable, and it also gets points for Saphira’s CG and an intense battle scene. But this skeletal rendering of Paolini’s vivid book is ultimately the equivalent of Fantasy for Dummies. The filmmakers should have taken advice from the script: As Brom first says to Eragon, “Mind your corn.”—Tricia Olszewski