Love is now the Stardust of today


on August 10, 2007 by Chad Greene
“Are we human because we gaze at the stars? Or do we gaze at them because we are human? Pointless, really,” the Narrator (Ian McKellen) intones at the beginning of Stardust . “Do the stars gaze back? Now, that's a question.” The answer, at least in this refreshingly funny fairytale, is a definite “yes.”

Pulled down from the heavens by an enchanted necklace belonging to the cruel King of Stormhold (Peter O'Toole), the celestial lady Yvaine (Claire Danes) lands unceremoniously in a crater in a far corner of the dying monarch's magical kingdom. In the English village of Wall (which is separated from Stormhold by—you guessed it—a wall), lovelorn lad Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) sees the star fall and promises the beautiful-but-bratty Victoria (Sienna Miller) that he'll bring it back—in one week's time—in order to prove himself a worthy suitor.

Lighting a magical candle left in his baby basket by his long-lost mother, Tristan is instantly transported to the crater in a burst of flame—practically tackling the surprisingly sarcastic Yvaine, who is none too impressed with his hastily hatched plan.

“Nothing says romance like the gift of a kidnapped, injured woman,” Yvaine deadpans, playing up the limp she acquired during her crash landing.

It quickly becomes clear, however, that the sweet-natured Tristan isn't the only one who wants something from Yvaine. The surviving sons of the King of Stormhold, Primus (Jason Flemyng) and Septimus (Mark Strong) want her necklace—as it will elevate the first who finds it to the throne. And the coven of crones led by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants her heart, as it will bestow eternal life on those who cut it out and eat it.

Adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman (who co-wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Beowulf), Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman's well-structured screenplay unfolds like a Princess Bride for the 21st century—balancing derring-do with sly satire.

As far as the stars go, the charming Danes shines brightest here, but she is nearly eclipsed by a winning Robert De Niro. A pirate who sails through storm clouds in a wooden vessel lashed to a blimp to collect lightning for sale on the black (magic) market, his Captain Shakespeare has a ruthless reputation but, behind closed doors, reveals himself to be a cross-dressing softy. After rescuing Yvaine and Tristan, he entreats the latter to keep his secret.

“Don't mention it. No, really. Don't mention it. Reputations, you know,” Shakespeare whispers, then roars—to the delight of his rough-and-ready crew: “Mind you, don't wear that wench out, Captain Tristan!”

No matter what Stardust does for Captain Shakespeare's reputation, this change-of-pace follow-up to Layer Cake is sure to do wonders for Vaughn's. Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, Peter O'Toole with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriters: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
Producers: Matthew Vaughn, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Dreyer and Neil Gaiman
Genre: Romantic fantasy adventure
Rating: PG-13 for some fantasy violence and risqué humor
Running time: 130 min.
Release date: August 10, 2007
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