Review: Stardust

What movie would you get if you combined the best of The Princess Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Village? Most likely, it would be something like Stardust, now playing in your local theater.

The result is definitely odd but also engaging and a lot of fun. You get the bold, personable and handsome adventurer out on a fantastic quest to win the heart of his true love. You get regular doses of humor, including a cross-dressing pirate captain. You get considerable action and adventure, and, naturally, an assortment of bad guys and evil ladies out to foil true love’s quest.

This curious combination of elements results in a well-done and very entertaining movie. Judging from my wife and daughter’s reactions, women will probably be enchanted by it. If you are a middle-aged man like me, you will have a fun time but probably will not feel quite as enthusiastic about the movie. However, you will not feel like your money was wasted. Stardust is fine summer entertainment.

The movie is set, at least initially, in the village of Wall, which is somewhere in England in the early 19th century. It is surrounded by (you guessed it) a wall. The wall has but a single breach, guarded night and day to prevent anyone from crossing it. As in the movie The Village, something lurks in the woods behind the wall, but no one in the village knows what until, invariably, a young man decides to find out. One thing is for sure: the place he ends up in is not in England. There he manages to fall in love and conceive a child, which is delivered to the wall nine months later. The boy, Tristan (Charlie Cox) is raised by his father until he too becomes a young man. One night while courting a woman he is madly in love with, a shooting star crashes into the earth far outside the wall. Tristan promises the woman he is wooing that he will retrieve the shooting star for her. If he can do this within one week, she has agreed to marry him.

The fallen star turns out to be a lovely, if somewhat acerbic woman named Yvain (Claire Danes). Using a special candle Tristan is able to instantly cross over the wall into the crater where the star landed. There he finds the somewhat dazed Yvain, looking impossibly skinny, cute, blonde and (since she is a star) radiant. There is no love at first site here though. Tristan has to bring her back to Wall and Yvain is not cooperative.

Of course, there must be evil people out to thwart Tristan, but they are there to amuse. Only young children will be frightened. Peter O’Toole gives a fine cameo performance as the old, evil king of Stormhold. On his deathbed, he gleefully sets his many sons on a ruthless fight to succeed him. Not too far away in an evil castle, live three very aged witches. They need a newly fallen star to regain their youth and magical powers. There is not much left of their last star. Naturally, because it is particularly gross, they must cut Yvain’s heart out. Michele Pfieffer plays Lamia, one of the evil witches. She is tasked to find and kill Yvain and return with her heart. Also on a similar evil quest is Septimus (Mark Strong), the son of the evil King whom, through fratricide, wins the right to be the next King. Unfortunately, to actually be crowned king, he must bring back the star’s heart too.

Director Matthew Vaughn does an admirable job of directing this movie. Without exception, his cast does a fine job of rendering this elaborate fairy tale. You will probably feel quite swept away by this lovingly rendered comedic fantasy. To me the only serious incongruity was the cross-dressing Captain Shakespeare, played by Robert De Niro. De Niro certainly enjoyed his atypical part. However, a cross dressing captain in a movie that is essentially a lightly comedic fairy tale of true love struck me as pushing the movie a bit out of kilter. Judging from my wife and daughter though, Captain Shakespeare was the highlight of the movie. If the weirdness of De Niro in drag does not throw the movie a bit off for you then you will find the movie wholly charming and delightful. I do not think I will spoil the plot by telling you that true love will be found and won.

I think it would be an impossible movie to loathe, and probably impossible not to enjoy. Buy yourself an extra large popcorn because the movie overall is a delightful treat for the acerbic child in all of us.

3.2 on my 4.0 scale.

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