Rated PG-13; Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Mark Strong, Kate Magowan, Jason Flemyng
How can I describe Stardust? With pirates, evil witches, ghosts, royal quests, and cross-dressers, Stardust is one of those films that defy categorization, though fantasy-adventure-romance may work as a jumbled category. With a good cast, lovely special effects, and an interesting story that never seems to lag, Stardust requires that willing suspension of disbelief to even begin to buy into the plot. Luckily this is not hard at all.
With opening narration by Ian McKellan, the story is instantly set up letting us know that we are not watching a normal adventure movie. Magic exists in the land of Stormhold, a land that lies within Victorian England, separated by one stone wall. Young Tristran (Charlie Cox), who finds love a rocky proposition with town beauty Victoria (Sienna Miller), enters Stormhold. Though trying to find his lost mother who is imprisoned by a witch Charlie stumbles into Yvaine, a star newly fallen from the heavens (see, willing suspension of disbelief). Unbeknownst to Tristran and Yvaine an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) is out to find the fallen star for her own dastardly plans.
Based on a Neil Gaiman novel, the movie not only offers plenty of thrills and adventure, we also get some laughs. Unlike other movies, the humor isn’t at the expense of the story and adds to its charm. We watch conniving princely brothers meet their less than accidental deaths and the ghostly chorus they become, an ensorcelled goat can’t quite get the hang of being human, and a dreaded pirate (Robert De Niro) may not be that dreadful.
The delight in watching Stardust is the way that director Matthew Vaughn goes for it. A sense of splendor fills scenes. Whether watching the witch pace on towering cliff sides or a flying pirate boat harvesting lightning, it’s beautifully filmed.
Charlie Cox makes Tristran correctly awkward and innocent. Claire Danes brings the romance to the story and is an effective Yvaine. Michelle Pfeiffer has fun as the nasty witch determined to capture Yvaine (between this film and Hairspray, Ms. Pfeiffer is finding a new career playing film baddies). The entire cast is good in this movie.
Stardust has some weak moments, but manages to move along briskly, never boring the audience. It’s a strange creature that wholeheartedly goes for the romance and magic and isn’t ruined by too twee a tone or too serious an attitude. Stardust keeps things just right.