Monday, November 03, 2008

Stardust (2007)

If you blink, you’ll miss Neil Gaiman’s name in the credits, but “Stardust” is based on his graphic novel of the same name. I struggle to understand why everyone hasn’t recognized Gaiman as one of our greatest living storytellers, but I seem to be part of a not-so-vocal minority in thinking so. Apparently, everyone didn’t flock to theaters for this one. “Stardust” grossed about $38 million at U.S. box offices, just over half of its $70 million budget. Looks like almost everybody missed a really entertaining story.
Relative newcomer Charlie Cox plays Tristan, a dreamer of a lad living in the village of Wall. The town is so named because of the wall lying just outside, which, it turns out, guards a magical world of witches, unicorns, and princesses. One night a falling star is seen to land somewhere beyond the wall, and Tristan, desperate to win the heart of the town beauty (Sienna Miller), pledges to fetch the star back for her. It turns out that on the magical side of the wall, a falling star is not a chunk of meteorite, but a beautiful babe (Claire Danes). Undaunted, Tristan gamely tries to escort the star back to Wall through a gauntlet of witches, pirates, and greedy princes.
This is fun stuff, folks! Sure, it’s a fairly tale, but one for adults. As with most fairy tales, you tend to know generally where the story is going, but it’s a fun trip getting there. There are definitely a few surprises along the way. I don’t think you will see Robert De Niro’s performance coming unless you have been warned. Michelle Pfeiffer is brilliant as a witch intent on cutting out the star’s heart for its youth-restoring qualities. “Stardust” also boasts Peter O’Toole, and even Ricky Gervais makes an appearance. It’s a heady mix of talent, and everyone is obviously having a good time.
Neil Gaiman has a funny, bitter short story about a guy trying to get a screenplay made into a film. I imagine he must have had some unsatisfying Hollywood experiences before. Still, I can’t see that he has a great deal to complain about in “Stardust.” Obviously, it doesn’t follow his narrative exactly, and the tone may have been lightened a bit, but I think this is a movie adaptation Gaiman should be proud of. This isn’t a film for young children, but for older kids and adults with some imagination, this is a well-made bit of light entertainment.

4 stars

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