Film review: Stardust

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2007 12:42 p.m. MDT

"Stardust" is supposed to be a magical fantasy, but it's not that magical and definitely isn't fantastic.

It's merely watchable, which is surprising considering its pedigree. It's an adaptation of the well-regarded, prose-and-pictures novel by author Neil Gaiman and artist Charles Vess.

And the cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Peter O'Toole, Rupert Everett and Ian McKellen, who serves as narrator.

And yet, its humor is clunky; there's an off-putting amount of nastiness, and the whole thing lacks the energy and vitality that would make it memorable.

Charlie Cox ("Casanova") stars as Tristan Thorn, who has vowed to recover a fallen star. The lovelorn youth is desperately trying to impress his lady love, Victoria (Sienna Miller), and believes this may help him win her heart.

However, he's surprised when he actually finds the star, which turns out to be a young woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). She's not thrilled to see him, though she'll need his help if she's going to return to her "home" in the sky.

But Tristan is not the only one looking for Yvaine. Evil sorceress Lamia (Pfeiffer) wants to cut out her heart and eat it (that will help restore Lamia's lost youth).

Would-be king Septimus (Mark Strong) is following Tristan and Yvaine, as well. He's already killed several of his brothers just to get to this point, and the rather bumbling Tristan may not put up much of a fight.

Co-screenwriter/director Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake") is saddled with a pair of dull leads. Cox doesn't have much charisma here, while Danes adopts an unconvincing British accent and showcases what's possibly the worst screen limp in film history (her character is supposed to be injured).

Fortunately, they and Vaughn are bailed out a little by the supporting cast. Pfeiffer has fun as the villain of the piece, and there's welcome comic relief from De Niro (as the leader of a band of sky "pirates") and Ricky Gervais (as a fast-talking trader).

"Stardust" is rated PG-13 for strong scenes of violence (sword fighting, stabbings, sorcerous attacks, animal slaughter and cruelty), suggestive language and references, scattered mild profanity, brief animal gore and use of potions and poisons. Running time: 128 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com