Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Premise: A five-foot stone wall on the English countryside divides a sleepy English town from a magical world on the other side. After a star falls to earth, characters from our world and the fantasy world race to the location of the star including Tristan, (Charlie Cox) a young Englishman who has promised the star to his crush in exchange for her hand in marriage, a witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) who wants the star to restore her youth, and a prince (Mark Strong) who needs the star to claim kingship over the fantasy world.
What Works: Stardust is a surprisingly good film in its first and third acts. The story uses familiar fantasy elements like unicorns, witches, princes, and castles but reinvents enough of it to make the material fresh. A lot of the fantasy pictures since The Lord of the Rings have taken themselves far too seriously, thinking they are much more important than they actually are (see Eragon or Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End). Stardust remembers to have fun and there is a lot of humor to be had in the film. When Tristan arrives at the star he finds it is actually a young woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). The two begin on a journey back to our world while being pursued by the witch and the prince. The film paces the chase and the journey pretty well and the development of the relationship between Tristan and Yvaine successfully uses humor and shared peril to bring them together. Tristan gets to grow as a character throughout the story and although the film follows Joseph Campbell’s hero journey unwaveringly, the content allows Tristan to earn his status as a hero. As Yvaine, Claire Danes brings a lot to the film and to her character, providing her with dignity and more presence and volition than the character might have had in the hands of a lesser actress. The star of the show, however, is Michelle Pfeiffer as witch Lamia. Pfeiffer steals many of the scenes she is in and her character’s vanity and destructiveness are fun and give the film some much-needed jeopardy.
What Doesn’t: The middle of the film drags a bit as Charlie and Yvaine board a pirate ship led by Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). The captain is a closet homosexual and although this part of the movie lightens up and gives De Niro a chance to play on his tough guy image, the scenes are not well done and the humor of the film is reduced to stereotypical gay jokes.
Bottom Line: Stardust is a pretty good fantasy film. The picture is nothing groundbreaking but it is very entertaining and will be enjoyed by those who liked The Princess Bride.
Episode: #156 (September 9, 2007)