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Movie Review: Stardust

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Stardust is the most charming fantasy movie in years. The whimsical adventure is full of laughs, suspenseful action, and magic galore. The movie tells the tale of how Tristan Thorne becomes a man by winning the heart of his one true love. It passes the Derek Malcolm Test: “A great movie is a movie I cannot bear the thought of never seeing again.”

Based on the Neil Gaiman novel, the story takes place in a village called Wall and a long brick wall separates the village from a magical kingdom. Tristan’s (Charlie Cox) quest begins after seeing a falling star with his crush Victoria (Sienna Miller). He pledges to bring Victoria back the star in time for her birthday in order to claim her heart. Tristan quickly finds out the fallen star is in fact a woman, the gorgeous beauty named Yvaine (Claire Danes).

We quickly learn that Tristan is not the only one seeking the star. Upon his deathbed, the deceased King of Stormhold threw his ruby into the sky, knocking the star out of the heavens, and declared whichever of his sons found the ruby, now on Yvaine’s neck, would be the new king of Stormhold. Apart from the greedy princes, three evil sister witches seek the fallen star as well. The oldest and most gruesome sister, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) sets out to find the star, cut out the star’s heart, and then eat it with her sisters to regain their youth. The three plot lines are tightly woven together, flowing quickly and coherently throughout the film.

What really makes or breaks a movie for me is the storyline and believable acting. Stardust has both. Screenwriters Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn took what Neil Gaiman did well in his book and made it even better. They created a visually striking world filled with unique and memorable characters. Humor wisps through the movie, particularly when Tristan and Yvaine encounter a couple of oddball characters, the scheming Ricky Gergvais as Ferdy and a closeted gay pirate ship captain, Robert De Niro (Captain Shakespeare), who is not so fearsome as his bloody reputation, come to mind. The moment after Ferdy asks, “Are you having a laugh?”we realize that yes, we are indeed having a laugh at this comedic fantasy.

Many critics have complained about the movie’s CGI being too much, but I must have been too entranced by the whimsical adventure and stunning cast to have noticed. In particular, Pfeiffer’s transformation into a grotesque evil witch is remarkably believable and the swordfight at the end of the movie is especially spectacular. Major credit to Sammy Sheldon for the pristine costumes, a perfect fit for the charming tale.

Stardust is a brilliantly constructed cross-genre film. So many elements make the movie a joy to watch. Stardust is like a well-concocted stew: a little bit of this, a little bit of that, add a handful of magic, and shazaam you’ve got a five star meal, or in this case, an enchanting tale that will never spoil.

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