"Stardust," based on the best-selling graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, takes audiences on an adventure that begins in a village in England and ends up in places that exist in an imaginary world. A young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) tries to win the heart of Victoria (Sienna Miller), the beautiful but cold object of his desire, by going on a quest to retrieve a fallen star. His journey takes him to a mysterious and forbidden land beyond the walls of his village. On his odyssey, Tristan finds the star, which has transformed into a striking girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes). However, Tristan is not the only one seeking the star. A king's (Peter O'Toole) four living sons - not to mention the ghosts of their three dead brothers - all need the star as they vie for the throne. Tristan must also overcome the evil witch, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who needs the star to make her young again. As Tristan battles to survive these threats, encountering a pirate named Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) and a shady trader named Ferdy the Fence (Ricky Gervais) along the way, his quest changes. He must now win the heart of the star for himself as he discovers the meaning of true love. (from MovieWeb.com
Fantasy films can be a fun genre with the right mix of originality, familiarity, and imagination. Stardust brings to life a graphic novel about an enchanted kingdom where a teenage boy crosses a forbidden boundary to bring back a shooting star as a gift for the girl of his dreams.
The approach to Stardust brings to mind films like The Brothers Grimm and a touch of The Princess Bride or even Big Fish. It's that kind of enchanted fairytale world that is unique and creative, bringing the viewer back to the days of their youth when dreaming of extraordinary things was commonplace. But Stardust incorporates some modern and adult themes into its fantasy world, making it less of a family affair than, say, something like The Princess Bride.
The cast helps make Stardust as fun as it is. Relatively newcomer Charlie Cox is the story's lead character, Tristan, while Yvaine, the fallen shooting star, is wonderfully portrayed by Claire Danes. To round out the cast, Michelle Pfeiffer fills in as Lamia, a hideous old witch who hopes to use Yvaine to restore her beauty, while Robert De Niro plays an unorthodox pirate leader named Captain Shakespeare and Sienna Miller is the spoiled brat Victoria, the object of Tristan's affections. Cox is an inspired pick to play such a developed character as Tristan - a young boy who, in a short time, matures into a man who must overcome some extraordinary trials and challenges. Cox successfully plays Tristan as a hopeless romantic who's a bit of an outcast, and later also fits the hero bill just as well. I've also never before been quite as impressed with a performance from Claire Danes, but she was definitely at her best, and quite believable, as a spunky shooting star in personified form. Pfeiffer is a wonderful addition as she juggles being beautiful and downright hideous as the film's chief villain, while De Niro offers one of the strangest roles I've ever seen him play, as a sympathetic cross-dressing reluctant pirate captain.
The way the film handles sexuality in such a casual nature may be its biggest downfall. Tristan is born out of a one night stand his father had in his youth with an imprisoned woman he spontaneously meets in a market in Stormhold. Furthermore, something like this happens later on again when two characters confess their love and proceed immediately to bed. It's sad that a movie about the innocence of love must mix-up lust and the physical expression of love with what love truly is. On top of that, De Niro's Captain Shakespeare is a closet crossdresser who actually hates violence but feels he must hide his true personality from his crew in order to hold on to his reputation as being a fearsome pirate. While the situation is clearly over-the-top and often comical, it seems a bit out of place and forced in a story like this.
Sexual content aside, Stardust really is a clever film. Many different kinds of people want to find Yvaine for unique reasons, including seven sons of a deceased king who all want each other dead in order to succeed as the ruler of Stormhold. As each one is bumped off, we see their black and white ghosts at different moments throughout the duration of the film, and it's the chief source of comedy for the story. Ricky Gervais, who may be most known for his role in the BBC's original version of the show The Office, also provides comic relief as Ferdy The Fence, but he's hardly around long enough to do much unfortunately, and if you've seen the trailer you've pretty much seen the highlights of his scenes. Stardust also drives home a wonderful theme about discovering what true love is, as well as overcoming societal statures to achieve great things. No one would ever peg Tristan as a hero from the start, so to see him defy all odds and realize the girl of his affections might not be all she is to his immature thinking says something for not only the underdog, but for the "popular crowd" as well. It's not a new theme by any means, but a great way of telling that story.
Violence is a bit strong. The ghosts of the king's sons are apparitions of the men in the state they were in when they died. One has an axe in his head, another seems to have been burned to death - and we see their charred face with some skin missing on it, one has a line across his neck with a blood stain beneath it (seen in black and white), and another's face is half-flattened from falling to his death. Some characters are stabbed or poisoned to death, while another's arms and legs are broken through the use of a voodoo doll. We also see a victim of magic run into a wall after their head disappears, and another is disintegrated. Not much of the violence is especially graphic, however it's definitely not family friendly. Language isn't really an issue, so what should be a caution for parents to consider is mainly the sexual implications and violence.
When all is said and done, Stardust is a magical fairytale that is entertaining as well as a good story of good vs. evil and discovering true love as well as who we're meant to be. Unfortunately, along the way the film offers a fair share of mature content that keeps this from being a family outing. Toning down some of the adult themes may have made this a story to revisit again and again. - John DiBiase (reviewed: 8/16/07)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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