cast: Michelle Pffeifer, Robert de Niro, Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, and Peter O’Toole

director: Matthew Vaughn

100 minutes (PG) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Paramount DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley

Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel by the director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake), and flame-haired pagan-botherer Jane Goldman, Stardust follows in the seven-league boot-prints of no-relation William Goldman’s surprise 1987 hit The Princess Bride in that it affectionately sends up the fairytale fantasy genre. Stardust is neither as clever nor as funny as The Princess Bride, but boasts an equally stellar cast who strive to take the proceedings seriously. Gaiman is enjoying a honeymoon period with the fantasy film industry at the moment with his writing credits for Mirrormask and Beowulf, and he certainly seems happier with the industry than his good friend and fellow comic writer Alan Moore. Moore has expressed dismay at the inevitable metamorphosis of a work as it crosses from one medium to another, although this proscription hasn’t prevented him from using comics as a means to foist his turgid prose writing onto readers who would prefer him to stick with comics.

Young Dunstan Thorn (Ben Barnes, Prince Caspian) leaves the village of Wall by the hole in the wall that surrounds it, and enjoys a night of passion with a witch’s slave in the land of Faerie. The liaison results in the birth of Tristan (Charlie Cox) who ends up on Dunstan’s doorstep approximately nine months later.

Tristan is good natured, relatively feckless and enamoured of Victoria (Sienna Miller, Factory Girl), a beautiful but rather shallow girl who on her birthday agrees to consider Tristan’s pledge of love if he retrieves the fallen star they have observed make earth-fall in the Faerie land of Stormhold. The star turns out to have taken the form of Yvaine (Claire Danes, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines), who agrees to accompany Tristan back to Wall to fulfil his promise to Victoria if he will then use his ‘Babylon candle’, a magical transport system with limited life, to return her to the heavens. The journey is complicated by the fact that Yvaine has been knocked out of the sky by a jewel that secures the throne of Stormhold and is sought by the dying king’s unscrupulous son Septimus (Mark Strong, Sunshine). Further complications arise from the fact that the heart of a star will guarantee an extension to life and youth and is desired by the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer, What Lies Beneath) for herself and her sisters.

Much has been made of Robert de Niro’s role as the closet-bound gay sky-pirate Captain Shakespeare, in that his portrayal harks back to the worst celluloid camp hairdressers of the 1980s. In fact his performance isn’t that bad, and is an amusing nugget in a film dominated by Pfeiffer, who steals it away from the attractive but lightweight leads. There are many nice touches in the film, such as the ghost-chorus of Septimus’ murdered brothers, featuring predominately TV comedy actors like Mark Heap and Julian Rhind Tutt (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), and a wonderful cameo by inevitably veteran actor David Kelly (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) as the wall guard.

This is a great family film with, as they say, enough knowing stuff to amuse the grown-ups. Filmed on Skye, Wester Ross, and in Iceland, one is hard-pressed to say whether the location work has been CGI enhanced or not. DVD features seem to vary, there’s a commentary by the writers on some, this and deleted scenes and a blooper reel on others.