a critiQal film review Stardust (2007)

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Plot: Tristan (Cox), trying to win the heart of village beauty Victoria (Miller), promises to bring her a falling star. When Tristan finds the star, he's stunned to discover the star has become a girl named Yvaine (Danes). As Tristan and Yvaine flee from ghosts, witches and more, Tristan begins to fall for this star.

Reviewed
883 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 24s)

I’d heard about Stardust back when it was in theaters, and noticed it was based on a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman. I remembered that name fondly, as I was addicted to another one of his graphic novel series, The Sandman. It was a bit dark, a bit twisted – and a thoroughly enjoyable read. I’d never heard of the graphic novel Stardust, but Neil Gaiman’s name definitely had my interest piqued.

And then I heard who was in this movie adaptation, and I was pleasantly surprised! Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Peter O’Toole, Ricky Gervais, Ian McKellen…the list of stars attached to this project seemed unending. With this many famous names attached to it, how could it possibly be not worth seeing?

Claire Danes, who went the action route most recently with her role in has kind of dropped out of the movie business for the past couple of years, and it’s nice to see her back. In Stardust, she takes on a role that seems to have more in common with her performance in Romeo + Juliet than her recent appearance.

Claire is at her best when her character is caught up in some kind of courtship – she shined as DiCaprio wooed her in Romeo + Juliet, and she literally shines in Stardust as a star that starts falling for Tristan, played by Charlie Cox. Charlie isn’t able to reciprocate Danes’ glowing performance to the same extent, but he manages to give her enough that she is able to make their fledgling romance worth watching.

Michelle Pfeiffer plays a witch seeking the star, in the hopes she can cut out it’s heart and eat it, thus making her and her witchy sisters young again. She takes on this role with a bit more gusto than viewers have seen from her lately, and reminds viewers of why she was so popular once upon a time. Even though she’s a villain, she also helps to add some bits of comic relief to the film, since every time she uses her magic, she grows steadily older. While it isn’t quite up to the performances she has given in the past, it’s easily much better than anything else she’s done lately.

Robert De Niro, long known for his tough gangster roles, takes on the role as a flamboyant ship captain in Stardust. While it’s nice to see some actors try new things every once in awhile, it’s a bit awkward with De Niro. He’s one of the best gangster actors there are, and shouldn’t be cross-dressing and putting on flamboyant airs. It’s embarrassing to watch, and makes for the most excruciating scenes in the film. Some actors (like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in ) are able to pull off the flamboyant character without it being uncomfortable for the viewer – Robert De Niro is not one of them. Stop doing comedic roles (like another Meet The Parents horror-fest) and get back to what you do best De Niro – don’t you have a team-up with Al Pacino you need to be working on ()?

The other characters, while entertaining, aren’t around for long enough to really get any chance to show their stuff. Ricky Gervais gets a chance to make viewers laugh with his (literal) squawking, but that’s about it. A real high point of the film however, comes from an unlikely source – ghosts. As 7 sons (3 of which are already dead in the beginning of the film) battle to find the star and recover the amulet she wears – thus becoming the new King – they are also trying to kill each other. Until a new King is crowned, the deceased brothers must hang around as ghosts, watching the progress of the remaining brothers. While this seems a bit gruesome, the ghosts comments are laugh-out-loud funny, and add comic relief just when it’s needed.

To draw in such a well-known cast, the plot has to be something truly exceptional, right? Um…no. True, this fantasy adventure has all the necessary elements to create a breezy fairy-tale like atmosphere to the film, which is a nice change from the darker adventures seen lately (The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, for example), but some of the sequences are downright ridiculous. As the film plays out, the viewer encounters a lot of unexpected cheese – and this cheese isn’t even close to fresh. Some sequences will have viewers groaning with the ridiculousness of it all, but thankfully, those scenes are fewer and farther between during the main heart of the film – only to appear again to help create an ending that will have most viewers scoffing.

Despite a frightening performance by Robert De Niro and Charlie Cox’s less-than-perfect acting skills, Stardust does achieve a lot of what it sets out to do. That’s definitely thanks to a performance by Claire Danes that will have viewers welcoming her back to the movie business, and a performance by Michelle Pfeiffer most thought they would never see again. Add in the comic relief by the ghosts mentioned above, and it becomes a fantasy adventure that’s worth watching. True, some scenes will have you groaning, but overall, Stardust is a decent effort at a lighter fantasy comedy.

Now, when are they going to turn The Sandman into a film?

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