Stardust is the most gleefully silly fantasy tale in years; a whimsical experience in the vein of The Princess Bride. Unlike the latter, Stardust is aimed more so at mature adults in its themes and execution. It contains enough self-referential humor and zest to keep one engaged throughout. In a true rarity for the season, Stardust actually puts story at the forefront – but it’s not completely without faults. With the exception of some needless and prolonged exposition, the film delivers the goods for filmgoers seeking an alternative to the sequel empire.
Tristan (Cox) is simply awestruck by Victoria (Miller). But there’s a problem: Victoria can’t see herself with a shop boy and is instead attracted to the snobby Humphrey (Henry Cavill). One night Tristan and Victoria see a shooting star and, professing the lengths to which he will go for her hand in marriage, the two agree to get married if Tristan can retrieve the fallen star. So begins the quest in which Tristan will cross paths with greedy sons of a recently deceased King (O’Toole), an evil witch who wants the star so she can reclaim her youth (Pfeiffer), a pirate named Shakespeare (De Niro), and the star herself, Yvaine (Danes).
Director/screenwriter Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman, working from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, have really created a memorable world filled with amazing sights and some fantastic comedy. All of the characters are well-read and very identifiable, which helps when the core theme is chasing your true love. The comedy comes fast and furious, particularly when Robert De Niro turns up in what can only be described as a fearless move on his part. Self-deprecating comedy is really the only route to take when making films in this genre any more, and Stardust strikes the chords perfectly throughout.
The show really belongs to Michelle Pfeiffer, however. Her portrayal of Lamia the evil witch is a perfect showcase for her deviant beauty and wicked sense of humor. She plays both parts (restored young beauty and brutish aged raisin) for maximum parody. Major credit goes to the makeup and CGI teams for making her transformations convincing, but Pfeiffer literally carries the film on her own with this dynamic role. Charlie Cox and Claire Danes are also winning.
There is a sense of wonder and glee evident in every frame of Stardust, and it represents in and of itself several of the reasons we go to the movies: to laugh, to be amazed, and to even be emotionally touched. Stardust contains a little something for all types of moviegoers, but above all else it has a fetching story, some fun effects, and just the kind of “happily ever after” ending that the genre always promises.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Length: 128 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some fantasy violence and risque humor.
Theatrical Release: August 10, 2007
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman. Based upon the novel by Neil Gaiman.
Cast: Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sienna Miller, Charlie Cox, Mark Strong