“Stardust” a welcome beacon to light the summer doldrums
Even critics have fantasies, one of them being to find movies (especially this summer) that aren’t sequels, don’t involve superheroes, and don’t rely on cars crashing or bombs bursting to provoke audience excitement. So along comes “Stardust” a sci-fi fantasy of sorts, the big screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s cult fairy tale. Consider it a hybrid concoction as if Jane Austen had written “The Princess Bride.” Indeed fans of Rob Reiner’s 1987 classic should find plenty to like, if not adore about this comic adventure that features some nice surprises.
Newcomer Charlie Cox is genial and likable as Tristan the young, awkward suitor who pines for beautiful Victoria (Sienna Miller) but can only win her hand if he leaves his cobblestone village to fetch and gift to her a fallen star which requires venturing into the mystical land of Stormhold. Turns out the star is in the personage of effusive but beautiful Yvaine (a beaming Claire Danes) and was knocked from the sky by the jewel of a dying king (Peter O’Toole) who promises his throne to the son who can retrieve it. The intricate plot is thickened by three decrepit witches (led by Michelle Pfeiffer who after a similarly villainous turn in “Hairspray” is admirably creepy but not truly menacing) who need the star to reclaim their youth.
The first third of the film plods a bit and has little to establish its own identity. But as more talent arrives including Rupert Everett, Mark Strong (as two of the Prince’s six sons who as they are slaughtered form a Greek chorus of chortling ghosts) Ricky Gervais, and especially Robert DeNiro as a swishy swashbuckling Captain, the story ups the comic ante and with tongue firmly planted gets cheekier as it ramps to its rousing conclusion.
More of a breath of fresh air than a destined-to-be cult classic, “Stardust” should be congratulated as a film that aspires to the non-mainstream genre of fantasy fairy tale with a hint of Brothers Grimm edginess. By attempting to carve its own formula, the ride gets bumpy at times-but “Stardust” is nonetheless a worthwhile journey for jaded critics and movie fans alike.
Rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and risqu? humor.