Catch a falling star … fresh, funny fantasy

2008-10-02 08:05

MICHELLE Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro and Claire Danes are each a big presence in Stardust - the story based on the acclaimed novel by Neil Gaiman that was illustrated by Charles Vess. It's a strange sort of film - a nice sort of strange - in that this fantasy romance is sprinkled with some unexpected offbeat humour. Epic multi-part films such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have serious and dark overtones, while Stardust, although not flawless, is fresh and enjoyable entertainment.

Set in the kingdom of Stormhold (a supernatural world next to England), the story revolves around young Tristan (Charlie Cox) - a dorky, unsure klutz whose quest to win the hand of Victoria (Sienna Miller) involves retrieving a fallen star. The deal is he brings back the star and she marries him. The star is not a precious stone, but a beautiful young woman called Yvaine (wonderfully portrayed by Danes with a British accent). But Tristan is not the only one after the fallen star: the witch Lamia (lavishly played by Pfeiffer) wants to cut out Yvaine's heart in order to gain eternal life and youth, and Septimus (Mark Strong), the heir to Stormhold's throne, needs a necklace Yvaine wears to finalise his coronation.

Then there's DeNiro's Captain Shakespeare - a cross-dressing pirate - who becomes an unlikely alliance to Tristan's quest.

The film has numerous elements going on that work to its favour: a quest, romance, magic, adventure and some quirky bits, all embellished by an enthusiastic cast. Some of the humour will go way over the heads of children while some of it is just plain dubious - so I wouldn't call this a children's film. There are parts of the film that also don't feel succinct and coherent (DeNiro's Can Can routine is an example), and the special effects aren't as gob-smacking as films like 300. That said, some reviewers have remarked at how true to the general “look” the film is to the illustrated novel.

What works in Stardust is that the story is always moving forward. It's a simpler kind of fantasy film, with the right amount of intrigue and humour. (I found the bickering between the dead brothers particularly amusing). In addition, Pfeiffer (in another villainous role after Hairspray), DeNiro and Danes are enjoyable in their respective roles. It's a strange sort of film - but it's fun fantasy. ***

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