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Movie Review: Stardust

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from the novel by Neil Gaiman
Paramount, 2007

Stardust opened in August of this year to mostly good reviews and its director, Matthew Vaughn, had just come off his breakthrough film Layer Cake (and passed on X-Men 3) to do this low-profile fantasy flick.  The blame for its lack of success goes to the marketing: the trailer was grainy and terrible, poorly edited, and the release date squared it against Rush Hour 3.  Plus, a variety of other factors like being “fantasied out” after the Harry Potter mania over the summer probably led to some indifference, but I blame the fact that the movie just wasn’t presented to the public in a way that made them want to see it.

I certainly didn’t want to see it.  But I had heard some good things and finally decided to give it a try.  This is the story of Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), who wants to woo the hot babe in town, Victoria (Sienna Miller), by crossing over a forbidden fence and tracking down a falling star and proving his love to her.  The forbidden fence was crossed long ago by Tristan’s father (Ben Barnes, then later Nathaniel Parker), who became a father after a brief dalliance with a witch’s slave, Una (Kate Magowan).

How did this star fall?  A magic amulet of the corrupt King (Peter O’Toole), who throws it out a window for his equally corrupt sons to fight over, travels into the cosmos and dislodges the star into the form of a woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes).  Her falling piques the interest of an elderly witch, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who along with her two sisters can eat the star and regain her youth.  So we’ve got one group of people who want the amulet, and another who want the star.

Tristan finds Yvaine first, who is unwilling to go along and makes trouble, veering him off course and running into all of the interested parties.  At some point, they receive help from the flying pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) who acts tough for his men but actually has a secret behind closed doors.  As the adventure progresses, Tristan has to decide whether he ultimately wants Victoria or Yvaine.

The plot is different from most films I’ve seen.  Usually there’s one ultimate purpose that all of the interested parties are trying to achieve.  Here, there are three different purposes and they all come together in a rather winning fashion.  The movie is a lot more polished than those awful trailers made it look. 

It’s good to see 49-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer return looking fabulous (almost like she’s in her thirties still), sinking her teeth into this one, as does De Niro who has been slumming it for some time (although I wouldn’t say he comes back with a vengeance here or anything, he’s just better than he has been in many years). 

It’s another one of those movies that went underseen in its lifetime on the big screen, but hopefully it will garner a following on video.

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