STARDUST (director/writer: Matthew Vaughn; screenwriters: Jane Goldman/based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess; cinematographer: Ben Davis; editor: Jon Harris; music: Ilan Eshkeri; cast: Claire Danes (Yvaine), Charlie Cox (Tristan), Sienna Miller (Victoria), Kate Magowan (Una/slave girl), Ricky Gervais (Ferdy the Fence), Jason Flemyng (Primus), Rupert Everett (Secundus), Peter O’Toole (the King), Michelle Pfeiffer (Lamia), Robert De Niro (Captain Shakespeare), Henry Cavill (Humphrey), Melanie Hill (Ditchwater Sal), David Kelly (Guard), Nathaniel Parker (Dunstan Thorn); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Matthew Vaughn/Lorenzo di Bonaventura/Michael Dreyer/ Neil Gaiman; Paramount Pictures; 2007-UK/USA)
“It’s difficult to say more complimentary things than at least it was competently made.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) directed and cowrote with Jane Goldman this comedic fantasy pic that lacked magic, imagination and grandeur. It’s an overlong, uninspired and ponderous adaptation of British fantasy author Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel “Stardust,” an edgy fairy tale that’s made absurd and comes up short of a unified vision. This star-filled production sucks the life out of it. It can be unfavorably compared with Rob Reiner’s far more joyous and playful “The Princess Bride.”
The story revolves around a bland character named Tristan (Charlie Cox), an 18-year-old impoverished shopboy from the English town of Wall, who promises to bring local dreamgirl Victoria (Sienna Miller) a fallen star if she gives him a week to deliver on his promise. To get this gift and win her over from his arch rival Humphrey, Tristan ventures beyond the wall separating his ancient British village and enters the forbidden magical kingdom of Stormhold. The kid repeats the daring act his pop (Nathaniel Parker) did eighteen years ago, as he’s the result of union between his pop and the former Princess Una, now a witch’s slave (Kate Magowan).
Tristan discovers the fallen star in the form of the radiant, beautiful and ethereal blonde named Yvaine (Claire Danes), whose only fault is she’s a bit argumentative and grumpy. It’s also learned that the two surviving ruthless sons (Mark Strong, Rupert Everett) of the demented king (Peter O’Toole) are promised the throne of Stormhold if they recover the star. But the star is also being sought by the even more dangerous witch named Lamia (Pfeiffer), armed with occult powers, who along with her two aging sister witches wants to cut out Yvaine’s heart and eat it to restore their youth and give them eternal life.
Before the happy ending can be reached, Tristan must undergo many perils. The film’s highlights include Lamia rapidly aging before our eyes and casting wicked spells right and left. One such spell is cast on an untrustworthy fence (Ricky Gervais), whose voice is turned into a frog’s croaking. Robert De Niro enters the film at about the halfway mark, attempting to do a campy Johnny Depp turn as a Captain Jack Sparrow type, as he plays the feared Captain Shakespeare, of a pirate ship, who under his outward toughness prances about as a swish swashbuckler in petticoats. If that silliness wasn’t enough of a distraction, there’s a Greek chorus of the king’s murdered sons viewing the pursuit of the star from their ghostly chambers and they chatter inanities throughout.
The film lost any lyrical quality the novel had and replaces it with a heavy-handed brutish way of telling the story. It’s difficult to say more complimentary things than at least it was competently made.
REVIEWED ON 8/10/2007 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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