Thursday, October 25, 2007

STARDUST: Fantasy Flick That Sparkles

STARDUST (fantasy adventure)

Cast: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer & Sienna Miller
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Time: 122 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

(Pic: Danes, De Niro & Cox)
Movie-goers who love the fantasy adventure in "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe" would definitely be thrilled by "Stardust", a whimsical effort adapted from the 1997 illustrated novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. However, unlike "Narnia" which is mainly aimed at younger children, "Stardust" is a more mature treat, catering to fairytale lovers of all ages.Instead of having to go through a wardrobe to cross over to its magical world, the protagonists of "Stardust" must cross a wall to reach the mystical land of Stormhold where witches live, ships fly and stars come alive...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Tristan (Charlie Cox) is a young Englishman who is desperately in love with the village beauty, Victoria (Sienna Miller). He makes a bargain with her: If he brings her a shooting star fallen to Earth, she must marry him and reject her other suitor, Humphrey (Henry Cavill). Thus Tristan begins his journey into the realm of Stormhold, where he meets fallen star Yvaine (Claire Danes) who isn't too happy about being cast into Stormhold. Tristan promises to find her a way home if she will accompany him to Victoria.
However, others are also after Yvaine. Lamia the witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants to cut out her heart so that she can have eternal youth; and Septimus (Mark Strong), the heir to Stormhold's throne, needs a necklace that Yvaine wears to clinch his coronation. With such enemies and obstacles to navigate through, Tristan and Yvaine find a friend in Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), who commands an airship that collects electrical power from lightning.

HIGHS & LOWS: As a magical romance, "Stardust" has all the requisite elements: true love, fairytale creatures, treacherous witches, shape-changing animals, and an engaging quest. What is important, however, is that it has a good dose of comedy. This is provided by the bickering ghost brothers of Septimus, the antics of a man-turned-goat, and, above all, by De Niro's Captain Shakespeare who likes to dress and dance in women's clothes. Here, we can't help but wonder if De Niro is trying to give Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow (of "Pirates Of The Caribbean") a run for the money.
There are darker elements as well, including its message about the irrational quest of youth and beauty that is obviously aimed at women in the audience. In this department, Pfeiffer shines and she seems to carry the movie, going for broke as the vile and villainous Lamia, the embodiment of female vanity. Other top stars in the cast include Peter O'Toole as the dying king of Stormhold, and Kate Magowan as Una, the slave princess.
Cast among such veteran show-stealers, the delectable Claire Danes and newcomer Charlie Cox seem to be having a tough time holding their own. Still, they manage to get our sympathy as the 'star-crossed' couple destined to fall in love with each other. Director Matthew Vaughn, who helmed the British gangster flick "Layer Cake", keeps the pace fast and hot, providing each sequence with enough magical wonders to enthrall us.

THE LOWDOWN: "Stardust" may not have the box-office lure of blockbusters like the "Lord Of The Rings" and "Harry Potter" series but it certainly works as a one-off fantasy ride for all in the family.


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