Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman (Novel: Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess)
Charlie Cox, Ian McKellen, Ben Barnes, Sienna Miller, Henry Cavill, Nathaniel Parker, Frank Ellis, Peter O’Toole, Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, David Walliams, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adam Buxton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Alexander, Joanna Scanlan, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais
PG-13 (F or some fantasy violence and risqu humor)
As with any major box office success, the fantasy genre received a jolt of energy when The Lord of the Rings trilogy became the most honored and successful fantasy series in history. Many other classic and modern fantasy stories have found their way to the screen with varying success. Stardust is the latest such incarnation which continues the expected decline of the medium.
Tristan (Charlie Cox) is a poor young man in a small English village where he hopes to marry the beautiful Victoria (Sienna Miller), a wealthy society girl. When a shooting star prompts him to promise a piece of it to her, he sets off on a quest to the other side of the forbidden wall that separates his village from a magical kingdom.
That magical kingdom is ruled by a dying monarch played by Peter O’Toole. His seven sons, three of which are dead, must fight to become ruler by retrieving the mysterious pendant he’s magically hidden in the countryside of the kingdom. Almost immediately, the brothers begin trying to kill one another as is tradition when wanting to become the king. Only Septimus and Primus make any valiant attempt to retrieve the necklace and even then their conniving manages to get the better of them.
When Tristan discovers the shooting star is actually a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes), he decides he will bring her back instead. She carries with her the necklace that is the target of the royal brethren and worse yet, another force is at work against them. Part of legend dictates that a star fallen to earth can grant eternal life to the one who consumes her heart. That brings out a secondary antagonist played by Michelle Pfeiffer who seeks the star for herself and her sisters.
If the plot isn’t confusing enough, mix in various obstacles that seem more like skits, and you have an epic fantasy adventure that’s more Adventures of Baron Munchausen than The Princess Bride. This fantasy comedy tries far too hard to be humorous, resulting in a consistently lame film.
The film is a departure for director Matthew Vaughn whose first film, Layer Cake, is hardly a comic farce. His choice of oblique angles for some shots and camera acrobatics for others only draws attention to the sophomoric style being delivered.
So many details of the plot feel unnecessary. The mid-film arrival of Robert De Niro as a cross-dressing pirate is one of those moments. The entire segment diverts the audience, but delivers no vital information and only serves to disgruntle those of us who are tired of the same old jokes.
When the film grinds to its conclusion, despite an inventive fight with a rag doll-corpse, every overdone plot contrivance manifests and resolves into a who-couldn’t-have-seen-that-coming finale. Fans of Baron Munchausen may indeed enjoy this film but without the classic comic sensibilities of the Monty Python alumni, Stardust is less gratifying and more vexing.
September 5, 2007