Reviews

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stardust

Director: Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake)
Novel: Neil Gaiman
Screenplay: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Dreyer, Neil Gaiman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Strong, Robert DeNiro, Sienna Miller
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 128 min
read my spoiler disclaimer



reviewed by Andrew James
     Surprisingly, a PG-13 rated movie shines through with Stardust. Although certainly not as great as its predecessors (Princess Bride, Narnia and a dash of Time Bandits), Stardust delivers on almost every level of what it is trying to accomplish; through great story telling, wonderful character(s), on the spot acting, nice effects and most importantly for this type of film, a quick pace that rarely slows down (especially the last 20 minutes or so).

      Tristan (Cox) is a young shop keeper who dreams of bigger things and marrying the love of his life. The girl promises to marry him if he travels beyond the forbidden wall and through the countryside and bring back a fallen star that they saw shoot through the night sky. Little does Tristan know that several other parties are equally interested in what the fallen star might contain and they will stop at nothing to get it. And so sparks an adventure the likes of which no one has ever experienced; least of all Tristan, who may discover his real true love along the way.

      The most noticeable aspect of Stardust are the familiar faces sprinkled throughout the film. Though the main character is fairly unrecognizable, the rest of the cast is filled with big names and fun, surprising cameos (which are unfortunately given away in the trailer). Michelle Pfeiffer is given a fairly unsexy role that is devlishly delightful and DeNiro has the best role he's had in the last ten years. Claire Danes is surprisingly charismatic as well and she really helps to brighten the screen (both literally and figuratively).

      The story itself is pretty traditional fairy tale type stuff: witches, pirates, angels of sorts, kings and princes, talking animals and of course the shop boy or pauper destined to be something great. Despite this, it has a fairly original sense of overall story arc. I'd never heard this particular tale before and not a tale so grandiose and swash-buckling with so many rich characters and story threads.

      One thing that has hindered a few films as of late is the inclusion of far too many villains for our hero to deal with. It tends to make a plot watered down with little character depth, which takes away our satisfaction of hating a particular bad guy. With Stardust, there are several evil villains (technically eleven that are named), but for some reason it isn't distracting at all. Instead, because each villain is not only an enemy to our hero, but also villains to each other, it adds just the right amount of tension pulling from various directions; making us feel like we're caught right in the middle with the hero and must struggle to figure out how to emerge victorious.

      With so many characters all trying to accomplish the same goal, it could've easily gone the way of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, which was a confusing mess of a storyline and ultimately completely boring because of it. Happily, the plot in this film stays right on track and we're aware of each character's thoughts and where they fit in with the story and exactly what they are trying to accomplish at every turn. It is just complicated enough to keep the audience interested, but not overwhelmingly convoluted.

      The only slight problem I had with the movie was the fact that aside from some of the CGI effects, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching a glorified stage play; especially in the beginning scenes. The settings and props looked fake and the lesser known actors spoke their lines in a theatrical way that just made me feel like I was watching a big budget play. Of course this feeling waned as the story got more action oriented and full of special effects shots, but it was a little distracting at first.

      The effects in the film are nice. Nothing shockingly gorgeous like in Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers, but just the right amount and just slightly campy enough to make for a sparkly spectacle on screen. Sort of as if Terry Gilliam were to direct a Harry Potter film (actually, that's a great idea).

      Perfectly rated at PG-13. Through most of the running time I thought what an excellent film that the entire family can enjoy. Then I started to realize that there are a couple of adult oriented themes and there is quite a bit of violence - not blood and gore, but still some fairly strong and brutal death scenes sprinkled throughout. Though I personally wouldn't have a problem bringing my nine or ten year old kid to this movie (if I had one), this is most certainly not a film for the little ones. The MPAA actually got something right this time.

      It's easy to see the final ending of the story emerge in your mind an hour before its conclusion. Still, each individual sequence is surprisingly unpredictable. Everytime I thought I saw what was coming, I was wrong. I made a mental note of it the first time, and then it happened again and again. This is a very rare and refreshing treat coming from this type of film.

      Though it didn't have me at hello, Stardust ultimately won me over with its terrific and suspenseful action sequences and tremendously charming characters and most notably a fun fairy tale of a story. Not having much to say, the story doesn't really have a whole lot for us to think about during the drive home and will likely be mostly forgotten by the end of the year. During the viewing though, you'll be lost in another world which is very often exactly what we want from the movie theater and Stardust delivers in spades... and swords.



Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer


Links:
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Stardust

Posted by Andrew James in
Review

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