guppy's film reviews

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Playing catch-up! Also reviewed this week: Knocked Up, Transformers and The Simpsons Movie

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Notable Actors: Ian McKellen, Peter O'Toole, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais
Score: B+
Summary: Charming fairy tale provided you enter with the right expectations.

Stardust is Neil Gaiman's second "real" film project, a follow-up to 2005's MirrorMask (reviewed here). It's a fairy tale, and provided you know that going in, it's one very much worth seeing.

Stardust is a story set principally in two locations. The first is the English country town of Wall, so named for the large wall nearby. The second is the magical kingdom of Stormhold, located on the other side of the wall, unbeknownst to most of the world.

Without giving away too much of the plot, a star has fallen. Our protagonist promises his love, Victoria, that he will cross the wall and bring the star back as proof of his devotion; unfortunately, others are vying for the star as well. Also in pursuit of the star are a trio of witches and several princes, sons of a dying king; the star represents longevity for them. All of them are rather evil, conniving sorts. It's difficult to go into to much more detail without spoiling the story, which would be a shame.

Stardust has a rather, uh, star-studded cast, if you'll excuse the pun -- but mostly they're in the supporting cast, with the exception of Claire Danes' Yvaine (who is excellent, by the way). By far Robert De Niro will be the fan favorite for his turn as Captain Shakespeare; I felt the role was a little too over-the-top and silly, meant to appease a wider market, but De Niro does handle the role terrifically and charismatically. Ricky Gervais is excellent in a bit part as a shady merchant, and the entire cast of princes, too numerous to name here, contribute an excellent humor to the film. I was stunned to see Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia the witch; it's nice to see some of acting's old school players lending their support to what will probably be a cult project. Peter O'Toole's cameo is worth noting as well, and while I know it's a minor part Ian McKellen serves admirably as the film's narrator.

I'm sorry to say that I did not pay particular mind to the music, but neither did it rub me the wrong way, so I suppose it was serviceable. The visuals are well in keeping with a fantastical story like this one, although they aren't nearly as exotic as previous Gaiman project MirrorMask, and there are some good effects on show here, although the witches' fire was a tad overused.

I saw Stardust with a group. On our way out, one of the people I saw it with commented that the movie was going to suffer because it "didn't know who it was aimed at." His point was that it looks very much like a children's story, but also contains all kinds of death and sex and what-have-you. This is probably important for you to know if you are considering taking your children to see it, although I don't think it's anything most kids would have much trouble with.

I want to clarify what I mean when I describe Stardust as a fairy tale, because that's critical to your evaluation of whether or not you'll like the movie. There's a lot about it that is fantastical or even illogical. If you're going to get any pleasure out of the film at all, you're going to have to suspend your disbelief. If it bothers you, think about how logical gingerbread witches' houses or bears eating porridge are. If you can handle that, Stardust is a wonderful time that I recommend highly.


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