Stardust

Stardust

****1/2

Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

Stardust concerns the efforts of a young man to win the admiration of that special lady in his life, his one true love. To do this he volunteers to fetch for said lady a chunk of a shooting star that the would-be couple spot during a moonlit feast.

His quest is complicated by the fact that the shooting star has fallen inside Stormhold, a magical kingdom chockfull of witches and nefarious princes who have their own reasons for finding the shooting star. If that isn't enough, the shooting star turns out to have manifested itself as a bemused fair maiden.

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Stardust originally appeared as a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman in 1998, about the exploits of Tristran from the village of Wall and his romantic and otherwise adventures "Within The Realm Of Faerie". This is a fairly liberal adaptation of the source novel.

Like Gaiman's Mirrormask and Neverwhere, the tale takes place mostly in a fantasy world that is accessible from ours, with its own magical, mysterious peoples and sets of physical laws.

Tristan, as he has become for the movie, is played by Charlie Cox - who manages the transformation from zero to hero with pleasing aplomb. Claire Danes is something of a revelation as Yvaine, the astral body of the title and we gradually warm to this faintly irritating couple.

The first of the parallel stories concerns the fight for succession to the crown of Stormhold. The King, a magnificent Peter O'Toole rampant, is dying and four of seven surviving sons must retrieve a necklace the King has hurled to the stars, an act which triggered the shooting star in the first place. At one end of the scale there is Primus (Jason Flemyng), a son with a few redeeming features and at the other Septimus (Mark Strong), a son with no redeeming features. Also along for the ride is a Greek chorus made up of the ghosts of less successful siblings.

The second story concerns a triumvirate of evil witches who need the heart of a star to maintain their magic and good looks. The lead witch (a cracking, cackling Michele Pfeiffer) is dispatched to seek it.

Despite this apparent plot complexity, the film never seems incomprehensible - unlike, for example, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, whose bloat concealed a fairly simple narrative. And just when things seem to be flagging, the film is brightened by the appearance of an airborne pirate, Captain Shakespeare, played with infectious enthusiasm by Robert DeNiro.

The humour is the saving grace of the enterprise and even a cameo by Ricky Gervais - basically playing himself in period costume - fits nicely into the whole.

The visual effects augment rather than overwhelm the plotline which is a relief and every cent of the film's budget is up on the screen, which will please Gaiman fans who may have lamented under-funded projects such as Neverwhere. Pleasing production design by Star Wars veteran, Gavin Bocquet, and the use of genuine UK locations aid the ambience of the piece.

A really enjoyable yarn in The Princess Bride mold, told with panache and worth two hours of your time, BUT flee the cinema as the credits start to role to avoid a ghastly pop song - you have been warned.

Reviewed on: 19 Aug 2007
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Stardust packshot
Fantasy epic about a boy who goes looking for a falling star.
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Read more Stardust reviews:

Chris ****1/2
Stephen Carty ***1/2

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writer: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, based on the graphic novel by Charles Vess and Neil Gaiman

Starring: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro, Mark Strong, Ricky Gervais, Peter O'Toole, Sarah Alexander, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, Melanie Hill, Kate Magowan, voice of Ian McKellan

Year: 2007

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK/US

Festivals:

EIFF 2007

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If you like this, try:

MirrorMask
The Princess Bride