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Stardust by Matthew Vaughn (dir), Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman (wr), based on
Review by Drew Bittner
Di Bonaventura Pictures  
Date: 20 July 2007 /

A falling star sets a lovestruck boy, an ancient witch, a scheming prince and more against each other in a mad scramble, based on the comic book Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. There can be only one to claim the star... but who will it be? In a land of flying pirates, wicked witches, unicorns, treacherous plotters and magical transformations, is there a "happily ever after" for this fairy tale?

Charlie Cox as Tristan / Claire Danes as Yvaine / Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare / Sienna Miller as Victoria / Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia / Jason Flemyng as Primus / Peter O'Toole as King of Stormhold / Ian McKellen as Narrator / Rupert Everett as Secondus ...

Seeing a falling star, a boy named Tristan (Cox) makes an impetuous promise to Victoria (Miller), the girl he loves (who doesn't love him in return): he will bring back that star if she will marry him. She agrees, and thus begins the real story of Stardust, the new movie based on the DC Comics miniseries by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.

Tristan lives in the village of Wall, named for the stone barrier that separates England from what lies beyond. His father crossed the wall as a young man and Tristan is now ready to do the same--given that the star fell on the far side of the wall, that's his only real choice--but finds that what worked once won't work again. Nevertheless, where there's a will, there's a way, and Tristan is soon far beyond the wall and into an adventure he could never imagine.

Turns out the star, once earthbound, is a young woman named Yvaine (Danes), which (as my wife noted) sounds much like "evening." She has been knocked out of the firmament by a glittering chunk of gemstone on a golden chain--flung there by the dying King of Stormhold. This gives his surviving three sons something to seek out and fight over. (Seems that rising to kingship is more a matter of treachery and bloodlust than anything else.) Now she is trapped on Earth, unless some magic can restore her to the night time skies.

At the same time, a trio of witchy sisters note the star's fall and chortle that, by eating the star's living heart, they can gain immortality. Since they are all ancient and decrepit, their black magic failing at last, immortality is sounding pretty good. Their leader, Lamia (Pfeiffer), takes up the last of their magic (which makes her young again) and sets out to capture the star.

Tristan and Yvaine do not hit it off at first. However, their bond grows when they survive Lamia's first attack--except that this puts them in the hands of the dreaded Captain Shakespeare (DeNiro). Shakespeare and his crew are skyfaring pirates, capturing and selling lightning to the shady Ferdy the Fence (Gervais). Tristan and Yvaine must rely on this scheming, blustering man if they hope to survive, even as Lamia and surviving brother/heir Septimus (Mark Strong) hurry to intercept them before they reach Wall.

A full-blown fairytale in scope and charm, Stardust brilliantly adapts Gaiman and Vess's work for the big screen. Matthew Vaughn, perhaps best known for crime drama Layer Cake, delves into territory alternately whimsical and terrifying as he follows Tristan, Yvaine and their diverse friends and enemies through the lands of Stormhold.

The effects are superbly done, but take a back seat to spectacular acting. Pfeiffer has rarely been better as the witch Lamia, showing both comedic and dramatic flair that might too easily have been overplayed in lesser hands, while DeNiro invites Oscar attention as Shakespeare. Cox and Danes play innocent love with delightful zeal, their relationship growing more interesting scene by scene, even as Strong carves a path through any who get between him and the gemstone. The Stormhold heirs (including Flemyng as Primus, who meets a grim demise of his own) form a ghostly Greek chorus for much of the story, commenting among themselves about the goings-on and snickering as their ranks expand; they are a comic highlight in some of the film's darkest moments.

Although it might be a bit intense for very young children, Stardust would be perfect for a family night out. It has romance, sword fighting, high adventure, narrow escapes, magic, heroism and villainy... it really has it all.

Fans of movies such as The Princess Bride should especially enjoy Stardust, though it's likely to find many fans on its own.

Strongly recommended.

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