Film Review: Stardust

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The Princess Bride was a funny, charming, irreverent film made back in 1987 that has become something of a classic, and it’s wonderful to see some of the same magic recaptured with Stardust. This lovely fable, based on Neil Gaiman’s second novel and directed by Matthew Vaugn, is an entertaining ride from start to finish–that is if you still have a soft spot in your heart for tales of ghosts and witches, kings and princesses. If you don’t–be off with you, hardened cynics with no imagination!

The story has simple faery (isn’t it wonderful how changing just one letter recaptures the magic the word ‘fairy’ has lost?) story roots, but a healthy mixture of inventiveness and a determination by the cast and crew not to take anything too seriously keeps the film fresh and fun throughout. Of course readers of the original novel may disagree, and say that Vaugn has been far too influenced by The Princess Bride. That may be–I have yet to read it–but as a film Stardust works. The cast throw themselves into the fantasy with relish, the Scottish and Icelandic locations are stunning, the effects are excellent and the directon is, for the most part, stylish and interesting.

In some reviews leads Charlie Cox and Claire Danes have been accused of being flat but I found them both charming, especially Danes who has a wonderfuly animated face and brings so much more to her role than would most characterless ‘pretty-actresses-of-the-month’. It’s also wonderful to see Michelle Pfeiffer back and stealing the show as nasty witch Lamia, desperately pursuing the prize of eternal youth in a role an actress more of a prima donna would balk at. All the players are obviously having fun and make the most of their parts, especially Mark Williams doing a hilarious turn as a goat turned into an innkeeper, David Kelly as the old man guarding the wall between England and Stormhold, Robert de Niro bringing a new dimension to pirates in a post-Pirates of the Caribbean world, and Julian Rhind-Tutt as one of the hilariously detached ghostly princes. Everytime the film is forced by the demands of the plot to dally dangerously near the pretentiousness that fantasy is sometimes prone to, a well-timed and frequently subtle joke brings it back on course. It’s a trick that looks easier than it is, and requires a good eye for avoiding the obvious and a desire to avoid treating your audience like fools.

If you have a little magic left in you, and are touched by fables that end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’, Stardust is for you. Four can-cans out of five.

PS Sorry about the dearth of entries lately. I’ll make an effort to update a little more frequently.