PLOT: In an old-fashioned romance with witches and gay pirates, a young man sets off to find a fallen star to bring his love to prove of his devotion. He then finds himself on a quest across “the wall”, a place where nobody is allowed to go because of the strange rituals of those who inhabit the magical land. When he finally finds the fallen star, he realizes that it is a woman who he must convince to come with him to fulfill his vow. But soon, others come searching for the star because if you eat her beating heart, you will have eternal life. Gives new meaning to the phrase, “eat your heart out” you know, in a romantic fairy tale sort of way.
It seems to be a pretty magical idea to include Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer with a lovestruck romance between Claire Danes and Charlie Cox set in a world of witchcraft and flying pirates. And much of the time, the Mathew Vaughn directed tale of illusion and power based on a book by Neil Gaiman sets a small spark while it reaches for the stars. Yet, it is not the fantastic world beyond the wall where a young man finds himself on a quest for a fallen star. It lies in a couple of sweet performances from both Charlie and Claire.
When Tristan (Cox) promises a young woman by the name of Victoria (Sienna Miller) that he will bring her back a star that has fallen from the heavens, she is flattered and of course, enjoys his romantic vows. Thus, a deal is set, he seeks the bright light that disappeared far from home, across “the wall” where nobody should go. Yet it seems the star he is in search of is much more than a bright light, the star is in the guise of a beautiful woman named Yvaine (Danes), and when he finds her, it is the start of a romance that shines a soft glow.
But the secret a star holds is that if you rip out it’s beating heart and eat it, you will live for eternity. Thus, there are others in search of the heart of eternal life, including Michelle Pfeiffer in a welcome return as Lamia, part of a trio of witches out to make the star their own. And there is Secondus (Rupert Everett) who is searching for the neckless that Yvaine wears which could make him king… that and killing all is brothers off. There is a whole lot going on in this modern day fairy tale, including Robert DeNiro as a gay pirate, that it sometimes loses sight of the story that is being told. This is a romantic story of finding your true love, and learning to recognize it when it’s there. Yet it is so filled to the brim with characters that you don’t always care about.
As I was trying to find myself swept away by STARDUST, I felt distracted by the less than stellar visual effects. The magic of digital effects is a bit tedious and looked much of the time like actors standing in front of a blue screen. It never really took my breath away, it just seemed to be paintings, some of which beautiful, that the actors performed in front of. The images felt cold and dark without vitality or life to them. Just an attempt to make a pretty picture without a soul. I didn’t get a sense of wonder even when the score suggested I should. Although there were moments of beauty including the final climactic battle and some sweeping shots of the strange land across the wall which were quite dazzling. But those moments of awe were much too fleeting to really express any sort of wonderment.
It’s not to say that this is a bad film, it is certainly not. Ms. Pfeiffer was pretty marvelous as the wicked queen with the heart of stone. I also had fun with DeNiro’s effeminate side even if it is not his best performance, he still has fun with it. And Claire Danes was quite believable as a fallen star who meets her own prince charming. When she did “what stars do” as she falls in love and begins to shine, I almost felt something more than just, aw… pretty! STARDUST is a wonderful idea, yet with all the beauty, it felt sort of cold and empty. I wasn’t awe-inspired by the magic, I was only slightly entertained by it. This star is not as much of a beauty as it could have been.
My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO
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